Mega Bouche

It’s Smooth Sailing for the Chicks Ahoy! in the 2012 ToRD Championship

The Chicks successfully defended the Boot, winning their third ToRD Championship. (Photo by Greg Russell)

It was a classic showdown with a historic spin at The Bunker on Saturday night, as the defending champion Chicks Ahoy! faced off against principle rivals the Gore-Gore Rollergirls in the Battle for the Boot 6, the 2012 Toronto Roller Derby Championship. It was the fifth time in six years that these two teams had squared off in the event, but roles were reversed this time around. For the first time, the Chicks Ahoy! finished with the best regular season record, a record that included a thirteen-point victory over this same Gores team in February. The Gores, on the other hand, found 2012 a rare struggle, losing their first regular season games in five years and just crawling into the playoffs in a tiebreaker over the Death Track Dolls. Despite the Gores’ somewhat surprising semifinal upset over the Smoke City Betties, they weren’t able to slow the dominant march of the 2012 Chicks. The defending Boot holders dominated from start to finish setting a record for points scored and margin of victory in a championship game with a convincing 196-56 victory to cap a definitive defense of their crown.

Lady Gagya (held behind Marmighty) had a strong night jamming for the Gores. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

With an injury ravaged roster necessitating some creative lineup juggling, it took a while for the Gores to get going, and by the time that they did, it may have already been too late. With a strong, consistent offense anchored by 2012 leading scorer Bala Reina, seasoned veteran Candy Crossbones, and former rookie of the year Kookie Doe, the Chicks came out with a stable, relentless attack from the very start, opening up an 11-0 lead after three jams before Bambi was finally able to put the first points on the board for the Gores. With Dust Bunny dressed, but not fully healed enough to be a difference maker in this one, the Gores went with a diverse, revolving jammer rotation that featured a surprisingly strong performance by Lady Gagya (15 points of the Gores points in the first half), but the pack never found the consistent rhythm that the Chicks’ pack did as their stable lines and the comfort with their jammers allowed them to seize momentum when available and maintain it for long stretches, leading by 40 points half way through the first period after the Gores managed only two scoring passes in that fifteen minutes span.

Chicks’ pivot Dyna Hurtcha had a monster bout in the pack. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

While the Gores seemed to wake up at this point, the constant shuffling of the packs (and subsequent blocker penalty troubles), never allowed them to sustain a consistent attack. With the gap already growing to over 40 points, a 23-point Kookie Doe power jam (she would lead the first half in scoring with 45 points) would bring the Chicks over the century mark and open up a lead that they would never relinquish. It was smooth sailing for the Chicks after that who had a stranglehold on this one, leading 106-32 at the half.

The jammers were certainly key for the Chicks Ahoy!, but just as integral was the punishing pack work. Clinical drag-back defense from Rebel Rock-It, relentless, machine-gun hitting from Marmighty and Mega Bouche, and phenomenal last-line-of-defense one-on-one work from primary pivot Dyna Hurtcha erased any thoughts that the lack of pack juggernauts Nasher the Smasher and Tara Part (who would join Flyin’ Bryan Killman on the bench) would prove detrimental to the team. But just as important as the front line, the key to the Chicks’ continued success is their depth of bench. Consistent veteran players like Furious Georgia, Robber Blind also had strong games, while the rookie trio of Biggley Smallz, Roadside BombShel and Doris Doomsday continued to excel in the pack, and are lead by the stable leadership of key role models Hoff and Tess D’Urb-Evil. All in all, it was a complete game by the Chicks, who rearely relented and had increased the lead to 120 points at the midway point of the period.

The Gores used a wide jammer rotation including Kandy Barr, who looks to avoid a Mega Bouche hit. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

Not that the Gores didn’t continue to push to the end. Despite scoring less in the second half, they scored more consistently as opposed to the bunches of points they’d picked up in the first. Santa Muerte, Chronic, Draculaura and Kandy Barr took turns with the star, while the packs relied in large part on Foxy Sinatra, Junkie Jenny and Molly Boom, and got more spirited performances from Miss Kitty La Peur and Emma Dilemma. Moving forward, it will be these five skaters that the Gores will look to to build around. They proved, especially in the semifinal—but at moments in the championship as well—that they are up for the cause; however, it will take time, and it wasn’t going to happen tonight, as the Chicks were unstoppable on their way to the overwhelming 196-56 victory.

With a number of skaters on each team joining CN Power full time, veterans like Foxy Sinatra and Junkie Jenny will have a greater responsibility moving forward. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

These two teams have been the perennial top performers in the league’s early history, and that is due in large part to the cores that these teams have been built around. With a roster more consistent than those of the Dolls and the Betties, these two teams have been consistent performers year in and year out (with the Chicks only have one blemish on their record—a 2009 season that ended early). But after six years, this game marked the end of an era, as in 2013, the members of CN Power will be leaving their hometeams to focus solely on WFTDA play. After a breakout season in the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (they went 9-1 in sanctioned play and just missed out on a playoff spot), CN Power will be skating straight into the heart of roller derby’s most competitive league next season and will require a full-time commitment from its skaters. For the Gores and Chicks and their fans, it means a lot of fresh new faces to get used to next season (they will be selected from an experienced group of D-VAS in the upcoming entry draft).

Venerable announcer Crankypants announced his retirement prior to the championship game. (Photo by Greg Russell)

On top of that, this bout marked the last for legendary announcer and voice of the league, Crankypants, who has stood right alongside these skaters through it all. While it will be a strange thing indeed to watch a ToRD event without Crankypants, the timing—in light of the changing make-up of the league—was apt, and even slightly poetic. Certainly, the legend will live on and the memory too, every time anyone implores the crowd to get louder.

Change may be difficult, but for ToRD as a whole, it means renewal, and an exciting, unpredictable house league for 2013 (with, on paper anyway, there appearing to be a power shift to the Betties and the Dolls on the horizon). These first few years have been extraordinary in their development and have produced phenomenal skaters, amazing moments and a strong, stable community around which to grow even further.

The development of Toronto’s most competitive league has mirrored the development of the sport as a whole: the game itself has never been stronger, more popular, or more relevant. ToRD, after another successful championship to cap another successful year, seems ready to continue its ascendance.

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Chicks Ahoy! to Battle for the Boot after semifinal win.

The Dolls and Chicks met in the semifinals for the third time in history. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Death Track Dolls 29  vs. Chicks Ahoy! 120

We’re down to two, and for the fourth time in ToRD’s history the Chicks Ahoy! and Gore-Gore Rollergirls will face off for the Toronto Roller Derby championship as the Chicks put together another impressive performance over the Death Track Dolls in the semifinal on the weekend. Despite a much improved effort from the Dolls, they simply didn’t have enough as the Chicks ruled the packs on their way to the  91 point victory and a spot in the June 25thchampionship bout.

This marked the third time that these two teams had played each other in the semifinals with the Chicks also recording victories in 2008 and 2010.

Once again, Dyna Hurtcha was nearly unstoppable for the Chicks. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Thoughts of a Dolls’ upset to end that streak were quickly put to rest in the early going when the Chicks roared out of the gates, grinding ahead 18-1 at one point before the Dolls were able to get their offense going. Once again, Dyna Hurtcha was unstoppable with the star early.  Dyna has always been a strong three-position player (winning the Triple Threat at the ToRD Awards in 2009), but her development as a jammer this season has been astonishing; whether powering through packs or rushing along the outside, the Dolls could not contain her. Candy Crossbones also continues to impress in 2011, and with rookie Kookie Doe passing every test that she’s been given in this impressive rookie season, right now, the Chicks look like they have the most solid 1-2-3 jammer attack in the league.

Land Shark returned to the lineup for the Dolls, but even she struggled against the Chicks' packs. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The Dolls were buoyed by the return of Land Shark to the lineup, but even she struggled with the extraordinary pack work of the Chicks. Jubilee took on a more regular role jamming for the Dolls as well, and could be key to filling out the offensive depth of this Dolls team moving forward. Captain Betty Bomber stepped up as well, but despite recording a solid lead jammer %, was unable to take advantage as the Chicks defence was stellar, dominating the front of the pack and running some very fast pace lines. Roller Derby is increasingly about controlling the pace and at times the Chicks seemed to have complete control over the pace of this game. In the face of this smothering defense, the Dolls were unable to even crack double digits in the first half, down 52-9 at the break.

With an already deep pack, the play of Kookie Doe has given the Chicks a deep roster of jammers as well. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

When these two teams closed out the regular season, the Dolls collapsed under the sustained attack by the Chicks and almost fell apart in the second half as the Chicks ran up the score, so full credit goes to the Dolls in this one for coming out strong in the second half and continuing to battle right through to the end; the score line seemed unfair to the Dolls in terms of the effort they gave. The Dolls’ Santilly In Yo Face continued her jamming apprenticeship and had a much more controlled game this time out, and another rookie, Bala Reina from the Chicks, also continued to get some experience jamming (as she and Dyna passed off positions in the second). The pack was working so well together that it was hard to measure stand-out performances from the Chicks, but Mega Bouche had another monster bout, and Marmighty is becoming frighteningly good in the pack; yet another solid blocker to add to a Chicks’ roster that already has the best pack depth in the league.

Santilly In Yo Face was ready for the Chicks this time, but faced considerable blocking from the likes of Mega Bouche. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Discipline has been a key issue this season for both of these teams, but particularly for the Chicks who have revamped their game in a big way. But there was a slight set back in this one, as both teams registered a lot of minors (33 for the Dolls, 25 for the Chicks) and an unusual amount of majors as well. Over the course of the regular season, the Chicks only recorded 23 majors, but picked up 10 in the semifinal, something that they will have to keep an eye on in the championship game. But there were very few jammer majors (two for the Dolls and just one for the Chicks that the Dolls, unfortunately, couldn’t capitalize on).

Nonetheless, the Chicks seem to be peeking at just the right, and have now put together back-to-back dominant games over an experienced opponent, which could be just the preparation that the Chicks need heading into the Battle for the Boot 5. In a season that at the mid-way point showed so much promise, the result was once again the same for the Death Track Dolls: coming up just short against the Chicks Ahoy!. They’ll need to build off the successes of the season and fix some of the issues that became more obvious as the season wore on, and now they’ll have  along off season to do it.

**Missed the game?? You can catch the complete bout including track side interviews on Rogers TV this Saturday (June 18) at 6:00 p.m.

**Tickets are on sale for the Battle for the Boot 5.

Team Preview: Smoke City Betties

SMOKE CITY BETTIES

Wins Losses +/ – Notes
2010 Regular Season 0 3 -574 Currently on a 5 bout, ToRD losing streak.
2010 Playoffs 0 1 -88 A comparatively solid showing in the semis.

The 2010 Betties lost their 4 ToRD bouts by an average of 165 points. (Photo by Joe Mac)

2010

Things could have ended very badly for the Smoke City Betties in 2010. The team staggered into ToRD’s semifinals as the fourth seed, lining up across the track from the defending champion Gore-Gore Rollergirls. Having lost their previous four bouts by a combined score of 975 – 167, the Betties seemed primed to be blown out, and in a big way. But then an interesting thing happened in that October bout: a cohesive team finally emerged to play its most competitive bout of the season.

After exploding the roster of the squad who’d made a spirited run to the 2009 championship, the 2010 Betties were rebuilding around a small core of veterans. There were certainly a fair share of growing pains along the way, but growing pains build maturity. The Betties ended last season truly looking like a team of the future.

LOSSES AND GAINS

BruiseBerry Pie salutes the crowd in her Hangar debut at the 2010 Clam Slam. (Photo by Joe Mac)

For the first time in years, it is possible to talk about the Betties in terms of gains as opposed to losses. With a favourable position in the draft, the Betties played on their solid youth group by focusing on stockpiling veterans. ToRD veteran Mia Culprit returns to the track in 2011. A founding member of ToRD, and a veteran of the Gore’s 2009 championship team, Mia brings a wealth of experience to the track for a team that desperately needs it. Key is her ability to pivot, which, especially for a young squad, is extremely important. Another key addition to the front of the pack is BruiseBerry Pie. After cutting her teeth with the GTAR’s Derby Debutantes, BruiseBerry will be making her much anticipated ToRD debut in the Betties’ season opener. The hard-hitting pivot potentially entering the prime of her career could be a game changer for this Betties squad. Co-captain Lady Scorcher has said that the roster continuity, along with the addition of veterans, has really helped the team prepare for the season. “Last year we started the ToRD season with 12 rookies, this year we have two, it’s a completely different feel,” she said.  “We’ve had almost a year and lots of experiences that have bonded us as a team, and the new drafts are integrating with the team really well.”

Mia Culprit returns to the track after a one-year hiatus (seen here playing for the 2009 champion Gore-Gore Rollergirls). (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

BY POSITION

The Betties will be led by a trio of new bench bosses this season: Sneaky Teaze, a former player and then coach of the original D-VAS, returns, and she’ll be joined by The Count and Shaun Fletcher. During last year’s rebuild, many of the young Betties were thrust into important roles on the track. “We really had to throw most of our skaters into new roles, with big performance expectations last year,” Scorcher admitted in discussing the pressure on the Betties rookies last year. “It felt a bit like climbing a mountain, but now the peak is in sight and we aren’t limiting our expectations of what is possible this season.” So while it may have seemed punishing at the time, this experience should make for a team that is solid positionally in 2011.

Pivots: Both Mia Culprit and BruiseBerry Pie have considerable experience with the stripe, and will undoubtedly be looked upon for leadership up front. Last season, vets Hot Roller and Pretty Peeved stepped up to take on most of the load in this position and will probably do so again this year. Lacy Brawler and Lady Scorcher are two other experienced options up front (and both evolved into great two-way players late last year), but last season’s rookie triple threat Sail Her Poon can handle the pressure, and Grim Avenger (who had the third most track time among the rookies) ended 2010 with a prominent and versatile role in the pack and could be a pivot of the future.

Nine Betties played their first bouts in 2010 (including Mouth of the South, titmouse and Tropic Thunder). (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

Blockers: Once again, due to necessity, the Betties have an experienced group of second-year skaters who can fill out the pack. Mouth of the South, Sin D Drop Her, and P Doddy (whose track time increased considerably as the season progressed) all gained valuable experience last season and will be looked upon to take on a leadership roles in 2011. Diva Zapata and Genuine Risk both seem poised to take on considerably more of the workload as well. All of this means that rookie additions Rug Burn and Misery Mae (who gained valuable bouting experience with the D-VAS in 2010) have the privilege of developing at a slow, considered pace, free of the burden of expectation that last season’s rookies had thrust upon them.

Jammers: It could be argued that this is the position that the Betties struggled with most last season. Sole vet Memphis Kitty led the youthful attack and she’ll be back to perform the same role this season. The good news is, is that jammer squad who had an initiation by fire in 2010 is back intact. Tropic Thunder led the 2010 Betties with a 24 % jammer percentage and showed considerable grit and determination in what was a challenging role to play on such an inexperienced team. Her 24% was just ahead of Poon’s 22%, though it wouldn’t be surprising if the captain spread herself across the positions more, allowing fellow sophomores Platinum Bomb and titmouse a chance to develop with the star.

EXPECTATIONS

There is a general sense that after such an intense 2010, the future is now for the Smoke City Betties. And things look good in the preseason, as a confident looking Betties squad recently gained a hard-fought victory (81-77) over a similarly matched Rideau Valley Riot Squad. The 2011 version of the Betties looks far removed from the team that suffered a 234 point loss on its last trip to Ottawa (last August vs. The Slaughter Daughters). It remains to be seen how this team can compete in ToRD this season. Aside from the Gores predictably strong squad, there are many unknowns. The Death Track Dolls looked vulnerable in their season opener, and the Chicks Ahoy!—a team that has thrived on a consistent, experienced lineup—will be tested as they integrate a considerable rookie crop this year. Despite all of the new faces on the Chicks, the Betties are not taking their opponents lightly. “They still have plenty of big hitters, fast jammers and strong leaders,” Scorcher points out, adding “we’re really looking forward to starting off the season with this game, as it will be a great opportunity to see how far we’ve come since last playing them.”

There is one thing about this game that is a given: this bout will most certainly not be a repeat of last season’s 266-42 blowout.

From the Archives (July 19, 2009): Betties 68 vs. Chicks 61 (Betties' Slaughter Lauder tries to pass Chicks' Mega Bouche). (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

2010 REGULAR SEASON STATS HIGHLIGHTS

– Over ToRD’s full 2010 season, had an average margin of loss of 166 points. Memphis Kitty’s -123 was actually the top overall +/- on the team.

– Sail Her Poon led the team in scoring (47 PTS, a 1.88 PPJ), while Memphis Kitty led with a 31% lead percentage.

– Pretty Peeved led the team in assists (12), blocks (24) and tied with Lady Scorcher for the lead in knockdowns (3).

– Lacy Brawler (who led the Betties in track time, appearing in 60% of the team’s jams) picked up the most minor penalties (29), majors (8) and total penalty minutes (14).

* Betties play the Chicls in the season opener for both teams on Saturday, March 12. Tickets for the bout are available online, or at various outlets down town. Doors of The Hangar open at 6:30, opening whistle at 7:30.

Check out ToRD.TV’s “Derby Couch” preview: