Smoke City Betties

Neil Gunner’s Into Battle to Launch at ToRD’s 2015 Season Opener

“I definitely had it in my mind to represent the full derby experience as much as possible.”—Neil Gunner on preparing to publish Into Battle, his book of roller derby photography that will be available this weekend at ToRD’s 2015 Season Opener.

"If I'm having to use my teammates to try to claw my way through, it's probably because I'm under heavy attack. That's how it feels when you're playing against Windy City." - Minnesota's Juke Boxx (now with London) on facing  Windy City in the final of the 2012 WFTDA North Central Regional Championship.

“If I’m having to use my teammates to try to claw my way through, it’s probably because I’m under heavy attack. That’s how it feels when you’re playing against Windy City.” – Minnesota’s Juke Boxx (now with London) on facing Windy City in the final of the 2012 WFTDA North Central Regional Championship.

Into Battle: The Roller Derby Experience in Photos and Interviews is a coffee-table sized sports photography book, but it’s not your typical sports book, nor is it your typical book of photographs. And those are both good things.

The book is not simply a collection of the author’s best or favourite photographs; it is instead curated thematically, divided into 27 sections that mimic the narrative of a roller derby event, from pre-game talks to stretching and gearing up, right through to the elation of post-game celebrations.

Beautifully and meticulously put together from the inside covers right through to the subtle background images of the text (ghostly shots of the floor the Bunker, home of Toronto Roller Derby), perhaps the most astonishing thing about the book is that it was self-published by the photographer himself, Neil Gunner. And everything from the vision to the actualization was all his doing.

“My main motivation was that I wanted full creative control, from art direction and layout to treatment of photos and skater stories to physical specs for the book,” Gunner explained in a recent interview. “I didn’t trust that some mass-market publisher would do justice to roller derby the way someone within our community would.”

So despite interest from an American publisher, Neil set out on his own with little more than his large collection of personal photos representing a number of events (from house league matchups to the WFTDA playoffs) and 19 distinct leagues from throughout Canada and the United States, and only a slowly evolving vision for the book.

“When I started the process, I had no idea if it was even going to work,” he admits now, “It all depended on the skaters – if they were willing to share, we were in business. Thankfully, the vast majority were very open and engaging; once I’d done a couple of interviews, I knew I was on to something.”

Interestingly, the book emerged out of a somewhat constructed collaboration that went beyond the natural game-time collaboration between photographer and subject. Instead of simply organizing the photographs into thematic sections, Gunner also made the fascinating choice of interviewing the subjects of the photos and using those words to accompany the photos as opposed to his own descriptions; this was one of the ideas that preceded the publishing of the text and ended up inadvertently shaping the content as well.

“When I started, I didn’t immediately think ‘chapters’; I wasn’t even sure what the theme would be… As I started to complete interviews and create transcripts, I could see themes and patterns emerging; it was just a matter of putting those patterns together. Over several weeks, the patterns became categories, which became sections and then chapters, right down to individual page spreads…The photo and story I chose for the introduction—where Arch Rival’s High Pains Drifter (Bench Coach) and Downtown Dallis are having their heart to heart—when I put those stories together, I thought, ‘This is it. This represents the whole derby attitude.’ It set the tone for the entire book.”

"I was just thinking  to myself, desperately like, 'Grab Acid's hand and take that whip.'" - Ohio's Smacktivist on a 2012 playoff showdown with Naptown.

“I was just thinking to myself, desperately like, ‘Grab Acid’s hand and take that whip.'” – Ohio’s Smacktivist on a 2012 playoff showdown with Naptown.

Neil Gunner (whose derby photography can be found on his Flickr site) is unique in one way from most derby photographers: He is very selective about what photos he releases to the public after a bout or tournament, sometimes to the point where a double header, for example, will produce as little as twenty pictures; so even in his regular derby photography, he is building a narrative and it’s something that he is conscious about: “One thing you’ll notice when you look at my derby photography in general: I like to curate and I like to tell a story, if I can. Sort of a dramatic documentary. The one thing I knew from the start was that this (book) couldn’t be just a bunch of photos with no context – I mean, who’d care, right?”

This structural decision makes for a surprisingly engaging read. As with any book of photos, it’s entirely possible to open randomly and be impressed by the pics and the layout, but rare in photography books is the ability to read it from start to finish as you would a novel or even a game recap.

But collecting and selecting the images and doing the interviews—while undeniably a massive undertaking—is just the first step in the production of a book; beyond that, the actual production can take as much time or more and can offer immense challenges, particularly from someone self-publishing a book for the first time. As Gunner admits, it required a lot of patience and the willingness to learn on the fly: “Every step of the process presented a unique set of challenges. The ones I didn’t see coming all had to do with production. For instance, I taught myself InDesign in order to build the book layouts. I learned all about retouching to fix a couple things within some photos.”

But the biggest challenge, he explains, was the actual preparation of the images for printing: “Photos intended for paper and a multi-million dollar printing press require a different output format than photos intended for a computer screen (CMYK versus RGB for those interested). The conversion process isn’t hard, but the trick is maintaining image quality: images reproduced on paper often lose something. I did a lot of testing, and this is one reason why finding the right printer is so important.” He ended up choosing a printer from Manitoba, and along with printing, they were able to offer advice as well.

As you learn through talking with people who have self-published, finding and receiving help along the way is key in the production. The term “self-publishing” itself is a bit of a misnomer, especially when producing a book as technically and structurally challenging as this one. All the steps a “traditional” publisher would take still need to be taken, and Gunner made sure to seek out help where needed, which included hiring a print production management team, Heidy Lawrance Associates, who ended up putting him in touch with the Manitoba-based printer and gave advice about aspects such as layout.

And that help extends into post production where he hired a copy/substantive editor, Stephanie Halldorson from h:editing, as well as a proofreader, Tan Light. “Believe me,” Gunner is quick to point out, “the book was very much improved by their attention.”

But when it all comes down to it, the stars of the book are the photos themselves and the subjects they contain. And the years of shooting roller derby have given Neil a refined eye for the sport and the action it contains.

There is a wide range of levels of derby captured in the book. The opening two-page spread of the “Teamwork” section (pp.76-77), for example, provides one image of a farm-team level game in Toronto opposite an image of a WFTDA elimination playoff game between Ohio and Naptown; despite the disparity in the levels of the game, the subject matter (two blockers attempting to whip their jammers past quickly advancing defenses) and the captured intensity are equal and presented as such.

"It was a messy, messy couple of seconds." - Windy City's Killanois on this encounter with a Montreal pack.

“It was a messy, messy couple of seconds.” – Windy City’s Killanois on this encounter with a Montreal pack.

The set-up also allows for narratives to be told over two pages. One example appears in the “Contact” section where a sequence (pp. 46-47) showing the knocking down of a jammer (Windy City’s Killinois) by a couple of Montreal blockers is described over both pages, with the narrative of the blocker (Montreal’s Mel-E. Juana is the interviewed blocker) and the jammer accompanying the images. Similarly, a three-photo spread (pp. 160-161) in the “Tenacity” section shows an ongoing battle between a blocker (Forest City’s Mirambo) and jammer (Toronto Roller Derby’s Bala Reina). It’s a compelling style, and one of the reasons that makes this book of photography so “readable.”

In the end, what Gunner has managed to produce is as compelling a book about roller derby as the contemporary revival has seen. Add to that the fact that as a DIY project, it was a labour of love in line with the cultural aesthetic of contemporary roller derby, and you have a book that successfully captures a community.

While talking with Neil about the book, you get a sense that despite the effort, he enjoyed making it as much as we’ve enjoyed reading it. “You really have to enjoy the process. It’s a huge amount of sustained effort; several phases were a full-time job. So you’ve got to have fun along the way or you’ll never get through it. Which is why I’m eternally grateful to every skater who agreed to do an interview over a beer.”

When asked if self-publishing was the right decision, he doesn’t hesitate, “it was absolutely the right decision.”

ToRD 2015 Season Opener BannerInto Battle will be available at Toronto Roller Derby’s 2015 season opener, a double header featuring a rematch of the 2014 Battle for the Boot (Death Track Dolls vs. Gore-Gore Rollergirls) and Chicks Ahoy! vs. Smoke City Betties. Neil Gunner and others who appear in the book will also be available to sign autographs.

Tickets are now available.

ToRD’s 2015 Entry Draft Defined by Experience; Features First Junior Grad

“I feel like Beyonce herself parted the seas and said ‘let there be joy.'” 2015 Chicks Ahoy draftee Vag Lightning on being selected by the team in the entry draft.

ToRD BannerThis was yet another big draft for  Toronto Roller Derby bringing in a total of 24 new skaters to the home teams (plus three skaters either returning from a hiatus or who will also skate for CN Power), with the defending champion Death Track Dolls  pulling in the largest numbers of skaters for the second year in a row, with eight new skaters added to the roster. Once again there was a great number of home grown D-VAS in the draft, mixed with some very impressive transfers.

While this year’s transfers may not come from locales quite as diverse as those in last year’s draft, the usual local transfers from the Rollergettes, the GTA Rollergirls, and DRRD (Durham Region Roller Derby) were also joined by skaters from Alliston (both Misfit Militia and Renegade Derby Dames) and one transfer all the way from New Zealand.

Smoke City Betties Logo

Smoke City Betties

Ann Bulance

Brickhouse Bardot

Fight of the Conchords

Isla B Damned

Juggernaut J

Smoka Cola

Experience is the word that defines the Smoke City Betties’ 2015 draft picks. Coming off of a disappointing 2014 that saw them slip to the bottom of the standings and miss the playoffs, the Betties ended up selecting one of the most experienced set of draftees ever, all of whom are capable of having an immediate impact on the team.

Even the two homegrown skaters, Juggernaut J and Fight of the Conchords come with considerable track experience. Juggernaut was co-captain of this year’s D-VAS and one of its most consistent blockers, while Fight has the distinct honour of being the first TJRD graduate drafted by ToRD. Moving from Saskatoon where she began as a junior, she was surprised that in TJRD’s four years, they had yet to graduate a skater. While she says she feels some pressure, she’s also confident that she is ready:  “Junior derby really gave me the fundamental skills to do what I do,” she said in the excitement of the moment. “I’m stoked to be part of this team and excited to be a part of ToRD.”

The Betties’ other five picks are all transfers with varying levels of experience. Isla B Damned comes all the way from New Zealand’s Richter City Roller Derby, Smoka Cola is a product of the highly competitive Misfit Militia out of Alliston, and Ann Bulance and Brickhouse Bardot are familiar to any fans of roller derby in the city, having most recently played for the Rollergettes. “There was a vibe; the universe was telling me I was going to be in black and blue,” said Ann who was not surprised to be picked by the Betties. “Heavy hitting and alt jamming,” Brickhouse said in response to what both she and Ann bring to the team. Both see this transfer to ToRD as the logical next step in their derby careers.

Chicks Ahoy! logo

Chicks Ahoy!

Annguard

Goreschach

Holly Mackinaw

Kimikaze

Monster Muffin

Slamureye

Vag Lightning

The Chicks Ahoy! had a bounce back season this year, returning to the playoffs after a year-long absence and looking much improved in every aspect of the game. They had a fairly substantial turn over this year, but picked players with a lot of depth of experience whether home grown or otherwise.

Annguard, Goreschach, Kimikaze and Vag Lightning were all core members of the 2014 D-VAS, while Slamureye, a 2013 transfer from Durham Region Roller Derby also payed some key minutes for the farm team. Holly Mackinaw is another more local transfer (Rollergettes) while the very experienced Monster Muffin brings vast experience and talent to the team (in particular to the Chicks’ now depleted jammer rotation) from her time with Alliston’s Renegade Derby Dames.

Vag lightning’s only comment on being drafted to the team summed up the positive energy around the draft party and the feeling of exhilaration of the draftees: “I feel like Beyonce herself parted the seas and said ‘let there be joy.'”

Gore-Gore Rollergirls logo

Gore-Gore Rollergirls

Extermi-knitter

Knocker Mom

Lady Gag-Ya

Murdercat

Stabbey Road

Tara Fying

After a roar-back season that saw them win the Beast of the East and climb back to the Battle for the Boot (for a record-setting seventh time). Things look solid for the skaters in leopard print moving forward, and despite their draft position, managed to stack the roster with a wide range of skaters, led by the return of long-time vet, the smooth-skating Lady Gag-Ya, who brings years of travel team experience back to her Gores. Similarly, Extermi-knitter and Murdercat both have a lot of track experience from their time in Durham Region Roller Derby (and elsewhere for Knitter). “I really liked their defensive game this season,” said Extermi-knitter who also has experience jamming. “The Gores have some amazing jammers…I’m more useful as a blocker and I like blocking a bit more,” she said. Her leaguemate Murdercat could immediately enter into the rotation, adding to that already existent depth.

Stabbey Road (who began skating with the GTA Rollergirls before transferring to ToRD), Tara Fying and Knocker Mom are homegrown talent who will help fill out a pack that was at times terrifying to play against last season.

death track dolls logo

The Death Track Dolls

April Cruel

Common Dominator

Elle Capwn

Goldie Lock N Load

Lace Frehley

PrEditor

Scarcasm

UpHer Cut

For the second year in a row the Death Track Dolls won the Boot, but yet again also have to deal with a massive roster turnaround (having eight open spaces for the second year in a row). The Dolls made it work in 2014 because they drafted wisely and they drafted for depth. And they just may have pulled it off again this year.

The new Dolls are lead by two returning skaters who were key pieces of the 2013 championship team: UpHer Cut (who returns after a year-long hiatus from the game), and Scarcasm (who will do double duty with CN Power this year). But there is experience also in returning veteran skater Goldie Lock N Load (who returns to ToRD for the first time since 2009 when she played two seasons for the Smoke City Betties). She’s been busy for those five years in between refereeing, doing a little announcing, and, of course, running the Rollergettes.

Speaking of refereeing; two of Dolls’ picks, April Cruel and Lace Frehley, both got their starts in roller derby as zebra-print enforcers so will bring a strong knowledge of the game to the defending champs. Finally, Common Dominator, PrEditor and Elle Capwn (who was actually a injury-call-up for the Dolls this season) round out the homegrown talent in the draft.

**Keep your eyes on Toronto Roller Derby.com for updates on what promises to be an incredible 2015 season!

Steady Dolls Hold off Relentless Gores to Retain ToRD Title

The Dolls defended the Boot in a tight, scrappy bout against the Gores, while the Betties closed out a challenging season with a big win over the Renegade Derby Dames’ Striking Vikings.

The Dolls joined the Gores (2009-10) and the Chicks (2011-2012) as back-to-back ToRD champs. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Dolls joined the Gores (2009-10) and the Chicks (2011-2012) as back-to-back ToRD champs. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

There was an old-school vibe at the Bunker on Saturday night: a lively crowd, active mascots, and rising beeramids lined the track, while tutus and face-paint made their way back onto it, but the game itself was new-school flat track roller derby at its frenetic best. It was one of those fine balances unique to the sport; a dichotomy that only roller derby at its best is able to pull off. Fueled by this richness of narrative, the dueling opponents  rose up to meet expectations and delivered. When the smoke cleared and the dust settled, it was the Death Track Dolls who survived the duel, able to hold off the three-time champion Gore-Gore Rollergirls 184-139 to take home their second straight Toronto Roller Derby championship.

The defending champion Dolls came in focused and unified. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The defending champion Dolls came in focused and unified. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Coming off of a record-setting season capped by a record-setting Battle for the Boot mauling against the Betties in 2013, the defending-champion Dolls, rebuilt and not as fine-tuned or weapon-stacked as they were last year, relied on a different sort of chemistry to make it work in 2014. It was a challenge that could have understandably felled a lot of teams, but the combination of trust and positivity that fueled the 2014 Dolls was evident from the opening whistle of the 2014 Battle for the Boot.

Not to discredit the Gores, who themselves were dealing with a largely rebuilt roster and had to find a way to fuse multiple-generations of skaters into a cohesive unit. They succeeded, and rebounded in 2014 from their worst season ever in 2013 to return to their seventh championship game and, of course, in April became the first team from Toronto to win Montreal’s Beast of the East. And despite a near 100-point loss to them earlier this season, in this game they gave the Dolls all that they could handle.

Dolls' jammer Bellefast and Gores' Lexi Con were both excellent for their teams. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Dolls’ jammer Bellefast and Gores’ Lexi Con were both excellent for their teams. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The league’s leading scorer Bellefast got things started on the jam line for the Dolls, and it was clockwork for the defending champs as they lept out to a quick 4-0 lead. But the Gores roared back showing some offensive savvy in ringing off five straight lead jammer statuses (and seven of the first ten), but could manage only 9 points on the run to hold a slim 9-4 lead, a testament to the Dolls’ stifling defense and quick offense-defense transitions to free jammers and make sure any damage was limited. Early on the Gores were able to contain Dolls’ first-year jammers Devochka and Sleeper Hold, but had virtually no answer for veteran Bellefast.

Belle managed the third highest regular season lead percentage in ToRD history this year (77%) and kept the Dolls in the championship game early on as they got their offensive blocking going. She scored the first 25 points for the Dolls and had 67 at half on a 78% lead percentage in a dominating performance¹. While Devochka eventually managed to start putting up points midway through the first, it would take Sleeper seven jams to pick up lead and get on the board. Once the pack settled in though, all three jammers eventually got going (for example, Sleeper put up 16 points in the second half on 60% lead percentage, while Devo would finish the game with 49 points on 53%).

Gores' Chronic and Kandy Barr hold back Dolls' jammer Devochka. (Photo be Neil Gunner)

Gores’ Chronic and Kandy Barr hold back Dolls’ jammer Devochka. (Photo be Neil Gunner)

The game was incredibly tight early on, with the Dolls slipping ahead 33-25 at the midway point in the first period, and the game’s true highlight was the duel going on the pack. Skater for skater, the Gores arguably had the deeper pack, led by veterans Santa Muerte, Chronic, Gamma Rei, Emma Dilemma and the retiring league founder Kandy Barr, and the Gores did win many one-on-one battles, but as the game went on the Dolls’ walls tightened and what the team lacked in individual brilliance, they made up for in collective unity.

Mirroring the Gores’ opening run, the Dolls steered the game into half picking up eight of the final ten lead jammers and building the game’s largest lead—30 points—up 95-65 at the break.

It wasn’t that the Gores’ jammers weren’t having strong games: they were; it was just that they so rarely had an opportunity to make a pass without a Dolls jammer hot on their tails. Both Lexi Con and Lumberjack Flash finished the game with impressive lead percentages, 71% and 60% respectively, and Beaver Mansbridge made the most of her leads putting up 25 points on a 38% lead percentage (Taranosaurus Rex would have a similar high points-per-lead ratio, managing 18 points on only a 20%).

Dawson and Wheatabitch wrap up Gores' jammer Beaver Mansbridge. (Photo be Neil Gunner)

Dolls’ blockers Dawson and Wheatabitch wrap up Gores’ jammer Beaver Mansbridge. (Photo be Neil Gunner)

While the Dolls played with a hive-mind sensibility, they were anchored by strong performances from their key skaters and veterans. After a number of retirements and CN Power call ups last season there was a big on-track leadership void in the pack and long-time Doll Dawson stepped up in a big way this season, and was at her best in the championship game, anchoring a line alongside veteran co-captain Getcha Kicks and retiring long-time Doll Audrey Hellborn (who joined the jammer rotation late in the game and picked up, fittingly, the final lead of the half to close out the win).

Meanwhile the same sort of pressure was heaped on second-year skaters Android W.K. and Robotmy who were tasked with anchoring the other half of the pack and did well to live up to the challenge, aided in part by the presence of and ever-improving Hannibelle and another long-time Doll Slam Wow. Finally, yet another retiring league founder, Demolition Dawn, provided the foundational and emotional stability that was key to this team’s year-long success. And the Dolls needed this veteran poise in the second half as the Gores poured on wave after wave of energetic pushbacks, managing to get as close as 19 points after a 20-point Lexi Con jammed power jam midway through the half (Lexi managed to pick up lead on her first six jams of the second half in a fantastic, clutch performance).

A veteran Gores line of Emma Dilemma, Kandy Barr, Chronic and Santa Muerte talk with their bench during a time out. (photo by Greg Russell)

A veteran Gores line of Emma Dilemma, Kandy Barr, Chronic and Santa Muerte talk with their bench during a time out. (photo by Greg Russell)

The Gores too have a solid young core to build around. Full Deck is emerging as a strong pivot and potential triple-threat, while both Moose Knuckles and Viktory Lapp saved their best for the when it mattered most this season, showing that they can be called upon in big-game situations. There is a ton of depth on the Gores roster as well, from veterans Miss Kitty La Peur and Purple Pain to newcomers like Machu Beatchu and Guardian Paingel (who were both absent with injury).

Prior to the game, sixteen retiring skaters were singled out for their contributions to the league. It was a humbling list including many first-generation ToRD skaters including Betty Bomber, Candy Crossbones, Demolition Dawn, Dusty, Dyna Hurtcha, Hoff, Kandy Barr, and Rebel Rock-It. It leaves a gaping absence in the centre of the organization, but it is one that the league has the infrastructure to fill. As a whole, the league should take notice of the Dolls model of smart drafting: This year’s pick ups in Stringer Belle, Wheatabitch and Free Range Clam were model skaters for the Dolls, making up for any lack of experience by buying into the team model and playing within the established system.

They were integral pieces in the Dolls’ complete-game performance in the final, and the team went toe-to-toe with their opponents during the Gores’ final desperate push where they had the offense going but couldn’t fully shut down the Dolls in a 25-11 run over the final four jams. The Dolls remained focused and held on for the 45-point victory.

Despite the retirements and the feeling of finality to this championship game, ToRD as a whole has a chance to do the same sort of on-the-fly rebuild that the Dolls did, only on a larger scale. With a deep house league entry draft loaded with both homegrown and transfer talent coming up, and an internal development system strongly in place in place from fresh meat all the way up to CN Power, this entertaining and successful eighth championship game should be looked at as much as an augur of a successful future as it was a celebration of a strong history.

"The Boot" Photo by Neil Gunner (neilgunner.com)

The Betties led 135-55 at half in their win over the Striking Vikings. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The Betties led 135-55 at half in their win over the Striking Vikings. (Photo by Greg Russell)

***In the opener, the Smoke City Betties picked up a much-needed win over the Renegade Derby Dames’ travel team, the Striking Vikings, 237-167. After climbing all the way to the 2013 Battle for the Boot, the Betties stumbled this season, finishing last in ToRD and missing the playoffs. They played, arguably, their most complete game on the season on Saturday and beat a tough opponent that featured some talented skaters.

***The 2014 Battle for the Boot will be rebroadcast intermittently on Rogers TV beginning next Saturday. Check listings for air times and dates. Visit layer9.ca for track side video coverage.

¹These stats are all unofficial and will be updated for accuracy if necessary.

Battle for the Boot 8: Dolls vs. Gores

On Saturday night the Dolls and Gores meet in the Battle for the Boot for the first time in history. The defending champ Dolls will try to hold off the three-time champion Gores to successfully defend the Boot.

ToRD_Oct-18-2014-Poster-Ver2_RS_100214Before 2013’s year of Dollmination, the Death Track Dolls had defeated the Gore-Gore Rollergirls only once in the team’s history, a close, controversial decision in 2008. From 2009-2012, the Gores dominated the rivalry and won a few championships along the way, while the Dolls struggled through losing season after losing season. All of that changed in 2013 when an undefeated record and a record-setting Battle for the Boot victory ushered in the Dolls’ era in ToRD.

Despite a slew of retirements and CN Power call-ups after the championship run, that era continued unabated through the early months of this year’s regular season as well. For the second-straight year the Dolls finished atop the regular season standings with a perfect 3-0 record. On top of that, their 652 points was the second most ever scored in a ToRD regular season (just below their own 2013 record-setting clip). The Dolls even dominated the other playoff-bound teams, notching a 100-point win over the Gores and a smothering 272-35 mauling of the Chicks Ahoy!. Everything seemed to be coming up Doll in 2014.

However, you should never count out the Dynasty.

Things started slowly this season for the Gores, but not as direly as you might expect for a supposedly rebuilding team. They managed to wind up second in the regular season standings after knocking off last year’s finalists, the Smoke City Betties, in the last game of the regular season and looked very impressive in dispatching a scrappy Chicks team in the semifinal. But the biggest indicator of how far this Gores team has come may have been their performance at the Beast of the East at the end of spring. It was a thrilling, often grueling run, where they won games they had no right winning, dominated teams they had no right dominating, yet struggled and fought and never gave up on their way to the shocking tournament win. It showed, clearly, the depth of heart on this team; the kinds of intangibles that can win championships.

Read the recap of the ToRD house league regular season double header in March. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Read the recap of the Gores and Dolls regular season meeting, a 172-79 win for the Dolls. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

But if the Gores want to win the championship, they will have to contain the Dolls explosive offense; an offense that has put up nearly 1400 points over their last six regular season games. In the teams’ one meeting earlier this year, the Dolls threw everything that had at the Gores, with five different jammers scoring at least 17 points (four of them had at least 24). It is that varied offense that is so dangerous, but look for the Dolls to keep the jammer rotation tight: Bellefast (who led the league with 164 points and a 77% lead percentage); Sleeper Hold (98 and 59%); and Devochka (156 and 59%); with captain Android WK as relief. In the pack, the Dolls may be vulnerable, with some mid-season retirements having eroded their once menacing depth; it will be a comparatively inexperienced pack that goes to the track on Saturday led by veterans Android WK, Getcha Kicks, Audrey Hellborn, and Dawson, but supported by a new generation of skaters led by second-year Doll Robotomy.

But the Gores have come into their own in 2014. In the regular-season meeting between the two teams, Lexi Con was the mos successful Gore jammer against the Dolls defense—but the Gores have a rotation of jammers that has improved as the season has gone on. The Dolls managed to contain Lumberjack Flash in the regular season game, but she has since taken the league by storm, and was second on the Gores in scoring with 24 points in the semifinal win gains the Chicks (Lexi Con tore up the track with 86 points on a 69% lead percentage in that game). Double threat Beaver Mansbridge was also called into considerable action in the semifinal, but with Taranosaurus Rex back from injury, she may be able to slip back into the pack a little more. But despite the developing jammer rotation, the real depth of the Gores is in its pack. Led by veterans Santa Muerte, Chronic, and Kandy Barr, there is an increasingly intimidating bench alongside that core, beginning with veterans Gamma Rei and Miss Kitty La Peur and extending all the way to next-generation Gores like Moose Knuckles and Full Deck.

While both teams are suffering injuries to key pieces (including two up-and-coming blocking stars in Beast MVP Machu Beatchu and first-year Doll Block Quebecois, but extending even further into each roster), don’t expect anything less than a brawl on the track. The Dolls are looking to join the Chicks and the Gores as back-to-back titleists, while the Gores are looking to break a historic tie with the Chicks and win their unprecedented fourth ToRD championship.

Battle for the Boot 2014 by the Numbers

8

This is the 8th Battle for the Boot.

7

The number of times the Gores have battled for the Boot (followed by the Chicks [5], and the Dolls and Betties [2]).

3

The number of ToRD championships the Gores have won (the Chicks have also won 3; the Dolls 1.).

652

The amount of points the Dolls scored during the regular season.

498

The amount of points the Gores scored during the regular season.

187.5

The average point differential the Dolls had in victories against the Chicks and the Betties this season.

64

The average point differential the Gores had in victories against the Chicks and the Betties this season.

93

The amount the Dolls beat the Gores by when they met in March.

1

The number of skaters playing on each team Saturday night who were active during ToRD’s first season (the Dolls’ Demolition Dawn played for the Smoke City Betties, while Kandy Barr is the sole remaining skater from the Gores’ 2007 championship run).

***The championship game will be preceded by an exhibition match featuring the hometown Smoke City Betties hosting the Renegade Derby Dames’ Striking Vikings out of Alliston, Ontario. The Vikings are a WFTDA travel team and should provide a strong challenge to the Betties, who missed the ToRD playoffs in 2014 after Battling for the Boot last season.

***Doors open at 4:00 PM, with opening whistle of game 1 at 5:00 PM. The Battle for the Boot 2014 will begin at 7:00 PM. Tickets are available online.

Beast of the East 7: A Preview of BOE 2014

Two days, sixteen teams, twenty-six games, and one winner. The 2014 Beast of the East promises excitement and unpredictability.

BEAST 2014 posterThe seventh annual Beast of the East comes at an exciting time in eastern Canadian roller derby history, and specifically in Ontario and Quebec’s history. Ontario alone now has eight full WFTDA member leagues (three of whom will be represented at the tournament). On top of that, Toronto is now ranked in the Top 20 (although that may change in the next rankings), Tri-City remains on the cusp of Division 1, and both Rideau Valley and Hammer City have more-than-valid shots at a place in this year’s D-2 playoff tournament. These are, indeed, boom times, and when there is such consistent competition at the top, it inevitably filters down through all ranks of the sport.

The great charm of the double-elimination Beast of the East is that it is exclusively a house league tournament, featuring the future (and even some current) stars of the sport in the region. This year, seven teams will be playing in their seventh Beast (Forest City’s Thames Fatales, the three Montreal teams and Toronto’s three representatives were all competitors in the original Beast), while another (Rideau Valley’s Slaughter Daughters) will be in its sixth. Added to that mix of experience will be a contingent of new teams and leagues as well: Four teams will be making their second appearance, and two will be debutantes: the Killer Queens will be the first representatives from Guelph’s Royal City Roller Girls to make an appearance, while Durham Region’s Atom Smashers will join their leaguemates, the Motor City Madames, who will play in their second tournament.

These teams will have a lot to live up to, as by most accounts, last year’s tournament was the best of the bunch, featuring the highest level of competition the tournament had ever seen.

The 2013 Beast was also a tournament of firsts:

THE CONTENDERS

Least year's champs, the Slaughter Daughters, have gone through a major off-season overhaul.

Least year’s champs, the Slaughter Daughters, have gone through a major off-season overhaul.

If you look at the history of this tournament, it has been one dominated by three leagues. From 2008-2010 the hosts placed nine teams in the Top 3 (peaking in 2010 when the Montreal home teams ran the board). But since that time, only La Racaille (second last year) has medaled. The only other league to come close to this level is Toronto, who has had five medalists over the years. And finally, Rideau Valley’s Slaughter Daughters have absolutely dominated the past three tournaments, winning two and losing in the final of the other.

Well, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

After a few years of struggling to place teams, Montreal showed signs last year that they are ready for the top once again. All three teams are potential contenders, with winners of the recent MTLRD round-robin kick off tournament Les Contrabanditas leading the way (they remain the only host team to yet win the Beast). But that tournament was tight (La Racaille only lost to the Ditas by 3 points), and all three are viable threats.

Toronto Roller Derby has also become a perennial contender with both the Death Track Dolls and Chicks Ahoy! picking up top three finishes in the past three years. While the Chicks (currently tied for second in ToRD’s house league) won’t be in this year’s tournament, the defending ToRD champs the Dolls will be back along with a resurgent Gore-Gore Rollergirls (who have underachieved since a heartbreaking loss in the 2011 championship game). Both should be considered threats.

The biggest (and most exciting) off-season change in Ontario roller derby was the reshuffling of Rideau Valley’s house league into three teams, two of whom, have to be considered contenders. The Prime Sinisters and the Riot Squad are both loaded with talent including many members of RVRG’s A-level travel team, the Vixens. While neither is quite the juggernaut that the Daughters were, they are both threats in this tournament.

THE DARK HORSES

Durham Region's Atom Smashers will be making their debuts and could turn a few heads.

Durham Region’s Atom Smashers will be making their debuts and could turn a few heads.

After last year’s thrilling run to the quarterfinals (including a last gasp 2-point victory in a must-win game against Toronto’s Smoke City Betties), no one should be surprised by the strength of Roller Derby Quebec’s Rouge et Gore. Nine members of the team form the core of the RDQ’s travel team, Les Duchesses, add coach (and member of Canada’s National Men’s Team) El Tennant to the bench, and this is a team that has a lot of track experience. Emboldened by last year’s run to the final eight, they should be a team to watch this year as well.

One team that may be off of people’s radars is Durham Region’s Atom Smashers. The Smashers are a team that features a nice balance of veterans (including former and current Toronto skaters in Amefyst and Lucid Lou, who appeared in this tournament with the Death Track Dolls for years) and up-and-coming stars. They have dominated Durham Region the last two years, winning the Gibson’s Cup twice (DRRD’s championship) and compiling an 11-2 record over that time.

NERD’S PICKS

This will be Riot Squad's fourth appearance in the tournament, but their best shot at winning it.

This will be Riot Squad’s fourth appearance in the tournament, but their best shot at winning it.

This year’s tournament feels particularly wide open, and given the unpredictable nature of the 20-minute format, making predictions sometimes seems like an exercise in futility. Nonetheless, the Nerd sees a final eight consisting of the three Montreal teams, Toronto’s Dolls and Gores, Rideau Valley’s Riot Squad and Prime Sinisters and Quebec’s Rouge et Gore, with a potential Sinisters vs. Riot Squad showdown in there as well.

On paper, these two Rideau Valley teams are virtually equal, and given the amount of collective experience on the two rosters, both should be considered top contenders to take top spot. Although the edge in depth may go to the Sinisters, the slightest edge in experience at the top could be given to the Riot Squad.

Of course, predictions are meaningless once the whistle blows. And first whistle blows at 8:00 AM on Saturday.

***The tournament will be boutcast (at least some of the tournament: stay tuned to the event page for further details and schedule).

***Tomorrow the Nerd looks at Friday night’s CN Power / New Skids on the Block showdown.

Beast of the East: 2008-2013

Beast of the East 2014Beast of the East: By the Numbers

To get ready for the 2014 Beast of the East, take a look back at the history of the tournament.

YEAR CHAMPION RUNNER UP THIRD PLACE
2008 Hamilton Harlots (HCRG) La Racaille (MTLRD) Les Filles du Roi / Les Contrabanditas (MTLRD)
2009 La Racaille Les Contrabanditas Les Filles du Roi / Smoke City Betties (ToRD)
2010 Les Filles du Roi La Racaille Les Contrabanditas
2011 Slaughter Daughters (RVRG) Gore-Gore Rollergirls (ToRD) Death Track Dolls (ToRD)
2012 Vicious Dishes (TCRD) Slaughter Daughters Chicks Ahoy! (ToRD)
2013 Slaughter Daughters La Racaille Death Track Dolls

Hamilton Harlots won the first Beast of the East in 2008. (Photo by Derek Lang; AKA: Bagelhot)

NOTABLE NUMBERS (Records etc.)

Wins: 21 (La Racaille 2008-2013)

Points Per Game (tournament): 110 (Death Track Dolls 2013)/ 109.5 (Slaughter Daughters 2013) / 102.5 (La Racaille 2013)

Points Against (tournament): 9 (Les Filles du Roi, 2010)

Most Points (single game): 159 (Rouge et Gore 2013) / 148 (Les Contrabanditas 2011)

Combined Points (single game): 184 (Rouge et Gore 159 vs. Debutantes 32 2013)/ 181 (La Racaille 117 vs. Contrabanditas 64 2013)

Biggest Differential: 148 (Les Contrabanditas 148 vs. Chrome Mollys [GTAR] 0, 2011)

[*The Gore-Gore Rollergirls were the first team to score 100 points in a bout–a 103-11 victory over Capital Carnage in 2009; Les Filles du Roi did it vs. the Vicious Dishes in 2010; four different teams accomplished it in 2011; the Vicious Dishes did it three times themselves in 2012, while three other teams did it that year as well. It has become common].

[*2012 was the first time both finalists (Vicious Dishes, Slaughters Daughters) lost a game on the way to the finals]

PARTICIPANT HISTORY

(BOE 7: 2014 participants first)

Team League BOE Record Notes
thames-fatales-logoThames Fatales FCDG 7 – 11 First round in 08, 09. Quarter final in 2010, 13.
lunch ladies logoLuscious Lunch Ladies FCDG 0 – 2 Second appearance (2013)
la-racaille-logoLa Racaille MTLRD 21 – 8 Semis 12. Second in 08, 10, 13. Champs in 09
Contrabanditas LogoLes Contrabanditas MTLRD 16 – 8 2nd place in 2009. 3rd in 2010. Quarters 2011,12, 13.
Les Filles du Roi LogoLes Filles du Roi MTLRD 18 – 6 Semi-final 08, 09, 13. Champs in 2010. Quarters 2012
prime sinsiters logoPrime Sinisters RVRG First Appearance
slaughter daughters logoSlaughter Daughters RVRG 16 – 6 Sixth appearance. Champs 2011, 13. 2nd place 2012
riot squad logoRiot Squad RVRG 2 – 6 Fourth appearance (2010, 2011, 2013)
deathtrackdolls_logoDeath Track Dolls ToRD 10 – 10 Quarter finals in 2009, 3rd place in 2011, 13.
Betties LogoSmoke City Betties ToRD 6 – 10 Semi-final 2009. Quarter final 2012
Gore-Gore Rollergirls logoGore-Gore Rollergirls ToRD 11 – 8 Forfeit 2009 at 3-0. 4th 2010. Runners-up 2011
casse gueules logoLes Casse-Gueules RDQ 0 – 2 Second Appearance
rouge et gore logoLe Rouge & Gore RDQ 2 – 2 Second Appearance. Quarter final 2013
Motor City Madames LogoMotor City Madames DRRD 0 – 2 Second Appearance (2012)
Atom Smashers logo 2013Atom Smashers DRRD First Appearance
logo-killer-queensKiller Queens RCRG First Appearance
 

Past Participants

Hamilton Harlots HCRG 8 – 6 2008-2010, 2012. Champs in 08.
Death Row Dames HCRG 3 – 5 2008-2010. Quarter final in 2010.
Steel Town Tanks Girls HCRG 1 – 1 2008
Bay Street Bruisers ToRD 1 – 3 2008, 2009. Now ToRD B-travel team.
D-VAS ToRD 0 – 1 2008. Now ToRD houseleague farm team.
Chicks Ahoy! ToRD 10-10 2008-2013. 4th in 2011. 3rd 2012
London Thrashers FCDG 0 – 1 2008
Bytown Blackhearts ORD 0 – 1 2008
Capital Carnage ORD 0 – 2 2009
Devil Dollies QCRG 1 – 1 1st US team (2008)
Derby Dames Grn Mtn 2 – 1 2nd US team, 1st to reach quarter finals (2010)
Derby Debutantes GTAR 2-10 2009-2013
Chrome Mollys GTAR 0 – 2 2011
Vicious Dishes TCRG 10-9 2009-2013. Quarter finals 2010, 11. Champs 2012
Venus Fly Tramps TCRG 2 – 6 2009-2011
TKOs TCRG 2-4 2011, 2013. Quarter final 2013
Les Duchesses de Quebec RDQ 1-4 2011, 2012. Promoted to RDQ travel team
Babes of Thunder TBRD  2-2 2012. Quarter finals in 2012
Reines of Terror MRR  0-2 2012

 

YEAR-BY-YEAR RESULTS

(Generally, all games 20 minutes until final, which is 30)

Beast of the East 2008 PosterBeast of the East 1: 2008

First Round

POOL A

Steel Town Tank Girls 40 vs Smoke City Betties 18
La Racaille 65 vs The Bytown Blackhearts 29
Death Row Dames 17 vs Devil Dollies 54
D-VAS 27 vs Les Contrabanditas 50

POOL B

Gore-Gore Rollergirls 13 vs. Hamilton Harlots 52

Bay Street Brusies 45 vs Thames Fatales 38
London Thrashers 13 vs Chicks Ahoy 65
Death Track Dolls 23 vs Les Filles du Roi 37

Quarter Finals

Steel Town Tank Girls 30 vs La Racaille 32

Devil Dollies 16 vs. Les Contrabanditas 42

Chicks Ahoy 30 vs Les Filles du Roi 38
Hamilton Harlots 53 vs Bay Street Bruisers 15

Semi Finals

Hamilton Harlots 58 vs Les Filles du Roi 29

Les Contrabanditas 32 vs La Racaille 39

Final

Hamilton Harlots 55 vs. La Racaille 18

* Read the Derby Nerd’s reflections.

Beast of the East 2009Beast of the East 2: 2009

First Round (Double Elimination)

Capital Carnage 11 vs. Gore-Gore Rollergirls 103

Death Row Dames 23 vs. Thames Fatales 19

Les Contrabanditas 59 vs. Venus Fly Tramps 26

Slaughter Daughters 24 vs. Smoke City Betties 32

La Racaille 67 vs. Bay Street Bruisers 10

Chicks Ahoy! 48 vs. Vicisou Dishes 32

Les Filles du Roi 77 vs. Death Track Dolls 6

Derby Debutantes 6 vs. Hamilton Harlots 69

Gore-Gore Rollergirls 32 vs. Death Row Dames 5

Capital Carnage 20 (eliminated) vs. Thames Fatales 67

Les Contrabanditas 34 vs. Smoke City Betties 20

Venus Fly Tramps 14 (eliminated) vs. Slaughter Daughters 48

La Racaille 36 vs. Chicks Ahoy! 35

Bay Street Bruisers 16 (eliminated) vs. Vicious Dishes 21

Les Filles du Roi 34 vs. Hamilton Harlots 25

Death Track Dolls 61 vs. Derby Debutantes 20 (eliminated)

Gore-Gore Rollergirls 35 vs. Les Contrabanditas 26

Death Row Dames 15 (eliminated) vs. Smoke City Betties 24

Thames Fatales 28 (eliminated) vs. Slaughter Daughters 68

La Racaille 35 vs. Les Filles du Roi 43

Chicks Ahoy! 21 (eliminated) vs. Hamilton Harlots 38

Vicious Dishes 27 (eliminated) vs. Death Track Dolls 32

Quarter Finals

Gore-Gore Rollergirls (forfeit) vs. Smoke City Betties

Les Contrabanditas 28 vs. Slaughter Daughters 25

Les Filles du Roi 24 vs. Hamilton Harlots 11

La Racaille 77 vs. Death Track Dolls 17

Semi Finals

Smoke City Betties 23 vs. Les Contrabanditas 33

La Racaille 38 vs Les Filles du Roi 20

Final

Les Contrabanditas 34 vs. La Racaille 49

* Read the Derby Nerd’s commentary.

* Read DNN’s bout-by-bout recap by Justice Feelgood Marshall

Beast of the East 2010 PosterBeast of the East 3: 2010

First Round (Double Elimination)
Thames Fatales 38 vs. Smoke City Betties 11
La Racaille 81 vs. Chicks Ahoy!12
Green Mountain Derby Dames 40
vs. Riot Squad 17
Death Row Dames 63 vs. Venus Fly Tramps 6
Les Contrabanditas 72 vs. Death Track Dolls 9
Gore-Gore Rollergirls 43 vs. GTA Derby Debutantes 20
Vicious Dishes 37 vs. Slaughter Daughters 20
Les Filles du Roi 92 vs. Harlots 6
La Racaille 91 vs. Thames Fatales 0
Chicks Ahoy! 89 vs. Betties 15 (eliminated)
Green Mountain Derby Dames 29 vs. Death Row Dames 15
Venus Fly Tramps 43 vs. Riot Squad 14 (eliminated)
Les Contrabanditas 63 vs. Gore-Gore Rollergirls 17

Derby Debutantes 38 vs. Death Track Dolls 29 (eliminated)
Les Filles du Roi 115 vs. Vicious Dishes 7
Harlots 28 vs. Slaughter Daughters 24 (eliminated)
Thames Fatales 24 vs. Venus Fly Tramps 15 (eliminated)
Death Row Dames 42 vs. Chicks Ahoy! 34 (eliminated)
Gore-Gore Rollergirls 45 vs. Harlots 20 (eliminated)
Vicious Dishes 52 vs. Derby Debutantes 24 (eliminated)

Quarter Finals

La Racaille 57 vs. Vicious Dishes 4
Les Contrabanditas 64 vs. Death Row Dames 11
Gore-Gore Rollergirls 45 vs. Green Mountain Derby Dames 22
Les Filles du Roi 91 vs. Thames Fatales 12

Semi Finals

La Racaille 69 vs. Les Contrabanditas 46
Les Filles du Roi 65 vs. Gore-Gore Roller Girls 1

Third Place

Les Contrabanditas 91 vs. Gores 21

Final

Les Filles du Roi 36 vs. La Racaille 20

*Read the Derby Nerd’s preview and recap.

*Watch the archived bouts.

Beast of the East 2011 posterBeast of the East 4: 2011

First Round (Double Elimination)

Duchesses de Quebec 4 vs. Derby Debutantes 124

La Racaille 55 vs. Riot Squad 7

Chicks Ahoy! 63 vs. Total Knockouts (TKOs) 7

Filles du Roi vs. Death Track Dolls 47

Vicious Dishes 50 vs. Gore-Gore Rollergirls 48

Contrabanditas 148 vs. Chrome Mollys 0

Slaughter Daughters 38 vs. Venus Fly Tramps 28

Thames Fatales 75 vs. Smoke City Betties 12

Derby Debutants 8 vs. La Racaille 100

Duchesses du Quebec 4 vs. Riot Squad 97 (Duchesses eliminated)

Chicks Ahoy! 40 vs. Death Track Dolls 21

TKOs 0 vs. Filles du Roi 81 (TKOs eliminated)

Vicious Dishes 21 vs. Contrabanditas 27

Gore-Gore Rollergirls 131 vs. Chrome Mollys 10 (Mollys eliminated)

Slaughter Daughters 62 vs. Thames Fatales 12

Venus Fly Tramps 66 vs. Smoke City Betties 14 (Betties eliminated)

Derby Debutants 29 vs. Filles du Roi 62 (Debutantes eliminated)

Death Track Dolls 84 vs. Riot Squad 8 (Riot Squad elimanted)

Vicious Dishes 49 vs. Venus Fly Tramps 3 (Tramps eliminated)

Thames Fatales 36 vs. Gore-Gore Rollergirls 49 (Thames eliminated)

Quarter Finals

La Racaille 11 vs. Gore-Gore Rollergirls 88

Contrabanditas 49 vs. Death Track Dolls 58

Chicks Ahoy! 48 vs. Vicious Dishes 8

Slaughter Daughters 81 vs. Filles du Roi 3

Semi Finals

Gore-Gore Rollergirls 51 vs. Death Track Dolls 11

Chicks Ahoy! 19 vs. Slaughter Daughters 33

Third Place

Death Track Dolls 42 vs. Chicks Ahoy! 31

Final

Gore-Gore Rollergirls 85 vs. Slaughter Daughters 87

* Read the Derby Nerd’s preview and recap.

* Watch the archived bouts

Beast of the East 5 (2012)Beast of the East 5: 2012

First Round (Double Elimination)

Chicks Ahoy! 51 vs. Slaughter Daughters 41

La Racaille 46 vs. Gore-Gore Roller Girls 30

Motor City Madames 36 vs. Hammer City Harlots 57

Les Contrabanditas 54 vs. Death Track Dolls 20

Vicious Dishes 139 vs. Reines of Terror 0

Les Filles du Roi 79 vs. Babes of Thunder 8

Derby Debutantes 6 vs. Thames Fatales 112

Smoke City Betties 108 vs. Les Duchesses 13

Chicks Ahoy! 10 vs. La Racaille 39

Slaughter Daughters 72 vs. Gore-Gore Rollergirls 52 (Gores eliminated)

Hamilton Harlots 39 vs. Les Contrabanditas 84

Motor City Madames 28 vs. Death Track Dolls 95 (Motor City eliminated)

Vicious Dishes 30 vs. Les Filles du Roi 47

Reines of Terror 34 vs. Babes of Thunder 71 (Reines eliminated)

Thames Fatales 64 vs. Smoke City Betties 69

Derby Debutantes 30 vs. Les Duchesses 120 (Debutantes eliminated)

La Racaille 59 vs. Death Track Dolls 31 (Dolls eliminated)

Hamilton Harlots 30 vs. Slaughter Daughters 131 (Harlots eliminated)

Vicious Dishes 123 vs. Les Duchesses 0 (Duchesses eliminated)

Thames Fatales 20 vs. Babes of Thunder 77 (Thames eliminated)

Quarter Finals

Chicks Ahoy! 83 vs. Babes of Thunder 22

Les Filles du Roi 67 vs. Slaughter Daughters 71

Les Contrabanditas 54 vs. Vicious Dishes 64

Smoke City Betties 59 vs. La Racaille 78

Semi Finals

Chicks Ahoy! 31 vs. Slaughter Daughters 65

Vicious Dishes 67 vs. La Racaille 48

Third Place

Chicks Ahoy! 87 vs. La Racaille 48

Final

Vicious Dishes 118 vs. Slaughter Daughters 63

* Read the Derby Nerd’s preview and recap

* Watch the archived bouts

BOE 2013 PosterBeast of the East 6: 2013

First Round (Double Elimination)

Chicks Ahoy! 58 vs. Riot Squad 50

Vicious Dishes 25 vs. Les Filles du Roi 50

Death Track Dolls 129 vs. Casses Gueules 7

Thames Fatales 34 vs. Les Contrabanditas 76

TKOs 133 vs. Debutantes 8

Rouge et Gore 12 vs. La Racaille 116

Gore-Gore Rollergirls 29 vs. Slaughter Daughters 105

Luscious Lunch Ladies 37 vs. Smoke City Betties 47

Les Filles du Roi 91 vs. Chicks Ahoy! 13

Vicious Dishes 33 vs. Riot Squad 44 (Dishes eliminated)

Contrabanditas 30 vs. Death Track Dolls 96

Thames Fatales 29 vs. Casses Gueules 18 (Gueules eliminated)

La Racaille 103 vs. TKOs 32

Rouge at Gore 159 vs. Debutantes 32 (Debutantes eliminated)

Smoke City Betties 2 vs. Slaughter Daughters 117

Luscious Lunch Ladies 50 vs. Gore-Gore Rollergirls 94 (Ladies eliminated)

Thames Fatales 53 vs. Chicks Ahoy! 46 (Chicks eliminated)

Riot Squad 57 vs. Contrabanditas 86 (Riot Squad eliminated)

Gore-Gore Rollergirls 42 vs. TKOs 85 (Gores eliminated)

Smoke City Betties 56 vs. Rouge et Gore 58 (Betties eliminated)

Quarter Finals

Les Filles du Roi 76 vs. Rouge et Gore 26

Contrabanditas 64 vs. La Racaille 117

TKOs 35 vs. Death Track Dolls 79

Thames Fatales 31 vs. Slaughter Daughters 113

Semi Finals

Filles du Roi 60 vs. La Racaille 85

Death Track Dolls 40 vs. Slaughter Daughters 68

Third Place

Death Track Dolls 136 vs. Filles du Roi 29

Final

La Racaille 74 vs. Slaughter Daughters 103

Read the Derby Nerd’s preview and recap.

VIDEO: Watch Double Elimination Archives Part 1 here.  Watch Part 2 here. Watch quarter finals here. Watch the third place and championship games here.

Dolls Move into First Place with Win Over Betties

Betties fall to 0-2 after rematch of 2013 Battle for the Boot.

The Betties and Dolls met in a rematch of last year's championship game; the results were similar. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Betties and Dolls met in a rematch of last year’s championship game; the results were similar. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

After a rash of off-season roster changes that followed their 2013 Toronto Roller Derby Championship, the Death Track Dolls were expected to enter into a period of at least minor rebuilding. But on Saturday night at the Bunker, in their second game of the season, it was the Dolls taking one more stride toward securing a second-consecutive spot in ToRD’s annual Battle for the Boot with a decisive 208-70 victory over the Smoke City Betties.

The tale of the game could be read in the opening jam as the Dolls got off to an explosive 19-0 start, with the Betties’ jammer titmouse picking up a cutting penalty on her opening pass allowing the Dolls’ Bellefast to pick up four scoring passes. It was a poor start all around for the Betties as the Dolls’ packs dominated, allowing their jammers to pick up the first five leads and build a formidable 69-0 lead before the Betties got on the board at the ten minute mark of the opening half.

The Dolls’ stiff defensive walls and tidy jamming had them cruising in a comfort zone the Betties could never reach. Missing their two leading scorers from the season opener (WackedHer and co-captain Wolverina), the Betties’ offense ran through veteran titmouse, the ever-improving SewWhat?, and second-year skater Kill’Her At Large (with Honey Boom Boom supplying relief).

The Betties' Sew What (who eventually led her team in scoring with 28 points) attempts to evade Audrey Hellborn. (Photo by Greg Russell).

The Betties’ Sew What (who eventually led her team in scoring with 28 points) attempts to evade Audrey Hellborn. (Photo by Greg Russell).

The Dolls shifted things a bit offensively from their season opener, slipping co-captain Getcha Kicks into the pack (for the most part) as second-year jammer Chicken Sluggets entered the roster. Led by the explosive Bellefast, first-year ToRD skaters Devochka and Sleeper Hold continue to show poise beyond their experience level, no doubt aided by the excellent, confidence-building pack work of the Dolls.

The Betties’ bench (led by Bench Coach BruiseBerry Pie and introducing new Bench Manager Scarcasm) called a timeout late in the half as the game was getting away from them. Whatever was said seemed to take hold as the Betties had their most consistent push to close out the half (they scored 16 of their 26 points in the final seven minutes). Nonetheless, the Dolls were in control 119-26 at the half.

The Dolls got off to another quick start in the second, but eight minutes in the Betties got their first power jam of the game after a cut from Sluggets; this allowed them to stay within a hundred points (161-62), a gap that the Dolls would maintain for much of the half.

Misery Mae attempts to hold back Devochka as Laya Beaton holds the line. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Misery Mae attempts to hold back Devochka as Laya Beaton holds the line. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

There were definitely moments for the Betties in the half, and some great individual experiences as well. titmouse overcame a slow start (and 0 points in the first half) to put up 11 points in the second. The Betties also continue to be the most physical of teams in the league with Misery Mae (who was outstanding), Tushy Galore (who eventually fouled out) and Mazel Tough delivering punishing blows, a necessity, it seemed, as the Dolls managed to control things positionally.

There were some minor changes to the Dolls packs, but even with the few personnel changes the game remained the same: two solid lines anchored by key players (Just Jes and Android W.K. on one side, Dawson and Audrey on the other), but the play of all of the blockers is rising slowly and, seemingly, equally, as this balance and consistency looks to be key to the Dolls’ success.

Speaking of balance, scoring was spread out well among the jammers on both teams. Devochka led the way for the Dolls with 69 points (followed closely by Bellefast with 59 and Sleeper with 46), while SewWhat? led the Betties with 28 (followed by Kill’Her At Large with 25).

With the 138-point victory, the Dolls move to 2-0 and pull into first place in ToRD’s regular season standings. The Betties now drop to 0-2 and are in danger of not even making the playoffs just one year after competing in the championship game.

D-VAS Top Farmers 252-110

D-VAS jammer Battering Ma'am attempts to evade the Farmers' Crazy Mama. (Photo by Greg Russell)

D-VAS jammer Battering Ma’am attempts to evade the Farmers’ Crazy Mama. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Toronto and Durham Region’s future stars closed out the double header on Saturday night. Coming off of a resounding season-opening loss to a considerably more experienced team from Woodstock, the D-VAS started slowly in this one as well, gifting the visiting DRRDy Farmers an early lead (it was 42-36 Farmers near the midway point of the first). The home team took its first lead with only 11:30 left in the half (jumping ahead 59-54). The confidence seemed to grow after this, and by half, they had increased the lead to 113-73.

The D-VAS cruised in the second half, looking stronger as the game went on, while the farmers faded. Although the entry drafts for both leagues are a long way off at this point, there are definitely skaters making early impressions: the D-VAS got strong jamming all game from Murdercat and Battering Ma’am with the Annguard getting stronger late in the game. In the pack, Juggernaut J and Kimikaze were both strong positional presences, while Vag Lightning and April Cruel delivered some big hits.

For the farmers, double threat Crazy Mama lead the way, with Bad Princess and Roller Mitch putting in solid performances jamming. Jungle Jen also put in a strong, well-rounded performance for the visiting Farmers.

**With Montreal’s upcoming Beast of the East dominating the roller derby house league scene for the next few weeks, the next action in Toronto will be May 10th (D-VAS and Toronto Junior Roller Derby will hold a double header); the house league resumes on May 24th. Durham Region will hold its 2014 season opener on Saturday, April 12th, in Ajax. Check here for details.

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Dolls and Betties meet in 2013 Champs Rematch

The Death Track Dolls have won five in a row against the Smoke City Betties dating back to 2009.

The Betties and Dolls face off in a 2008 regular season match up. The Dolls won 89-73. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

The Betties and Dolls face off in a 2008 regular season game. The Dolls won 89-73. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

The last time the Dolls and the Betties met was in the 2013 Battle for the Boot, a one-sided championship battle that saw the Dolls romp 258-73 in the record-setting win. In recent history, the Dolls dominating the Betties is not a surprise, and all-time the Dolls have a 5-2 regular season advantage and a 1-0 playoff advantage (last year’s championship game was the first time the two teams had met in the playoffs).

But the Betties’ road to the 2014 season has been a long, winding one (the story of the Betties is one of the most compelling—and important—in Canadian roller derby, actually). From 2007-2009, the Betties won two of three meetings against the Dolls (including a 9-point victory in 2007) until the massive roster overhaul before 2010 set the Betties on a years-long rebuild that saw the Dolls go on a 5-0 run since that time.

Since 2009, the Dolls have been on a slow build, improving every year (with a slight, arguable slip in 2012) and culminating in last year’s championship win. Last year, the Dolls dominated every aspect of the league, cruising to a record-setting regular season and a one-sided championship win. In the off season, the Dolls went through a massive roster overhaul that many thought would cause them to start a 2009-Betties’ style rebuild, but early indications show that has yet to happen.

THE STORY SO FAR

Smoke City Betties

In their season opener, Betties blocker Babushkill duels with Rosemary's Rabies to open a lane for jammer WackedHer. (Photo by Greg Russell)

In their season opener, Betties blocker Babushkill duels with Rosemary’s Rabies to open a lane for jammer WackedHer. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Each team has played one regular season game so far in 2014. The Betties fell in a shocker to a resurgent Chicks Ahoy! team in a tight 159-139 game that the Chicks dominated early, before the Betties rally came up just short. It was a thrilling game that came down to one controversial jammer penalty in the closing moments of the game.

The Betties have slowly built up a deep, balanced roster. Led by the hard-hitting duo of Misery Mae and Tushy Galore, the brawn runs deep with Mouth of the South, Mazel Tough, and Laya Beaton supplying frightening support. But the pack is also made up of a slew of more positionally inclined blockers like Honey Boom Boom, LowBlowPalooza, Babushkill, and Kill’Her At Large.

Offensively, the Betties were led by rookie jammer WackerHer, who led the team with 46 points and put up a line of 46 points, 3.8 points per jam and a 42% lead percentage. Co-captain Wolverina was also a huge presence for the team, notching 45 points (on 4.5 PPJ) with a 70% lead percentage (currently third in the league). Double threat SewWhat also supplied important offense (32, 2.9, 55%). Veteran jammer titmouse (16, 1.4, 55%) rounds out the rotation, and the Betties will need a bounce back game from her if they hope to push the Dolls (she had a high lead percentage, but couldn’t translate that into points).

Death Track Dolls

The Dolls' Dawson and Audrey Hellborn attempt to close the door on Lumberjack Flash during the Dolls' season opening victory. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The Dolls’ Dawson and Audrey Hellborn attempt to close the door on Lumberjack Flash during the Dolls’ season opening victory over the Gores. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The Dolls kicked off 2014 the same way they ended their 2013 record-setting season: in dollminating fashion. There were a lot of questions surrounding the champs as off-season retirements and call-ups to CN Power left the team scrambling to rebuild, but the championship culture developed over last year is paying off. Their season-opening 172-79 victory over the Gore-Gore Rollergirls sent a clear message while defying expectations

The pack is built around a core of veterans, but relies on new skaters as well. In the season opener, there was a great balance between the lines with one set led by second-year captain Android W.K. and returning veteran Just Jes, and the other led by a trio of Dawson, Audrey Hellborn and Canadian Psycho. Word on the track is that veteran Doll Speedin’ Hawking will make her season debut this weekend, adding more experience to the lineup. But the next generation of Baby Dolls is stepping up in the pack as well, with second-year skaters Robotomy and former Rollergette and current Los Conos (Hamilton) skater Stringer Belle leading the way.

Getcha Kicks had a strong game with the star in the season opener putting up 72 points on 5.1 points per jam behind a 71% lead percentage (tied for tops on the league) but look for the Dolls co-captain to take some time in the pack this game with second-year jammer Chicken Sluggets entering the roster. That leaves Bellefast to lead a young offense. She’s currently tied for the league lead in lead percentage (71%) and scored 35 points against the Gores.

The Dolls also got strong performances from ToRD rookies as well, with Durham Region transfer Devochka having a strong first half (24 PTS, 1.8 PPJ, 15% LP), and former Loco skater Sleeper Hold getting stronger as the game went on, on the way to putting up an offense line of 17, 1.3, and 39%.

D-VAS vs. DRRDy FarmersDolls vs. Betties 2014

Concluding the double header on Saturday night, will be a game featuring the future stars of both ToRD and nearby Durham Region Roller Derby as the D-VAS and DRRDy Farmers meet up. Both teams are made up of skaters who will eventually be eligible for their respective house league drafts at the end of the season.

The D-VAS opened up the season with a 338-173 loss in an offense-heavy game against the Woodstock Warriors. This will be the first game of the season for the DRRDy Farmers.

***Doors at the Bunker open at 4:00 PM. Opening whistle for the Dolls and Betties is 5:00 PM, with the D-VAS vs. DRRDy Farmers game set to kick off at 7:00 PM. Tickets are available online or at a number of vendors in the city.

 

 

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Dolls (vs. Gores) and Betties (vs. Chicks) Set for 2014 Debut

DollsGores ChicksBetties 14 PosterOn Saturday night at the Bunker, the 2013 Toronto Roller Derby Champions, the Death Track Dolls, will make their debut as they face off against the Gore-Gore Rollergirls, who are coming off of a season-opening win against the Chicks Ahoy!. Last year’s Battle for the Boot finalists, the Smoke City Betties, will also kick off their season against a much-improved Chicks Ahoy! team. Both showdowns will say a lot about how the season will play out.

The night will kick off with the Betties and Chicks facing off for the seventh time in ToRD’s regular season history. The Chicks have a 4-2 edge in the regular season meetings beginning with a 119-96 matchup in 2008 (they did not meet during the 2007 regular season). However, the tides turned last season when the Betties scored their first win over the Chicks since 2009. The two teams, remarkably, have never faced each other in the playoffs.

Similarly, despite a long history of competition, the Dolls and Gores have also never met in the playoffs, but their regular season history dates all the way back to June 2007 and the first public game ToRD hosted (the Gores won 117-78). After knocking off the Gores in 2008, it would be another four years (and four-straight losses) before the Dolls would take one away from the Gores again, last year’s 233-153 victory sealed the Dolls first-place finish in the standings and their place in the Battle for the Boot.

Both the Dolls and Betties are looking to continue the power shift they orchestrated last season when they battled for the boot against each other for the first time.

The 2014 Death Track Dolls

Photo by Dan Lim

Photo by Dan Lim

2013 was a banner year for the Dolls and one that will be tough to repeat after going undefeated and winning their first ever championship. Between retirements and CN Power call-ups, the Dolls roster was gutted in the off-season. While a veteran core remains, they had more turnover than any other team in the league.

RETURNING SKATERS

The Dolls have eleven returning skaters from last season’s championship team, including co-captions Android W.K. (second year blocker/pivot) and triple threat Getcha Kicks. In the pack, a strong, experienced core of Audrey Hellborn, Canadian Psycho, Dawson, Demolition Dawn, Slam Wow and Speedin Hawking will be supported by second-year skater Robotomy, who missed virtually all of her rookie year with injury. However, the Dolls’ pack is bolstered by the transfers of two former Gores: seven-year blocking veteran Junkie Jenny and Just Jes (the skater formerly known as Aston Martini). Jes is returning after a single-year hiatus, but has already looked impressive playing for the Bay Street Bruisers.

Amidst all of the off-season change, it’s actually the jammer rotation that took the biggest hit, losing two of the league’s most dominant scorers in 2013 (Rainbow Fight and Santilly In Yo Face). However Bellefast returns and second-year skater Chicken Sluggets will be called upon to step up. Also, Getcha Kicks, though blocking more than ever, is still more than capable of taking the star when needed and will probably jam more early in the season as they develop rookies.

On the bench, the Dolls will have both Panty Hoser (of CN Power) and Wencer back to give consistency to the management team.

The Dolls won their first championship in 2013. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Dolls won their first championship in 2013. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

FRESH FACES

No team has more fresh faces than the Dolls, but it is an intriguing mix of rookies and more experienced transfers that will don the “skull and blood” in 2014. Arguably leading the way is Devochka, who is no stranger to fans of derby in Ontario. Having played for numerous leagues, most notably in Durham for their travel-team Durham Derby Devils, Devochka is a double threat, and could be relied upon to help in the jammer rotation right away. Similarly, Hannibelle, Stringer Belle and Free Range Clam have skated for either the Rollergettes or GTA Rollergirls before making the transition to the DVAS, while Sleeper Hold got her start in Toronto’s LOCO league. Wheatabitch and Block Quebecois were developed through the DVAS system.

THE OUTLOOK

Given the amount of change the team has sustained, it may be unrealistic to expect another run to the championship this season. But a strong performance against the 1-0 Gores would go a long way in convincing everyone that it is a possibility.

The 2014 Smoke City Betties

Photo by Jonathan Wallace

Photo by Jonathan Wallace

Last year, the Betties upset the Gores in the semifinals to return to the championship game for the first since 2009, losing to the Dolls. But with the core of that team still in place, expectations should be high once again.

RETURNING SKATERS

Although some key pieces of last year’s team have been lost through retirement, there is a strong core in place, starting with team captains Tushy Galore (who is a pillar of this pack) and triple-threat WolveRina. There is a lot of toughness in the pack, and the Betties could be the hardest hitting team in the league. Misery Mae, Laya Beaton, Mouth of the South, Mazel Tough, Zomboney and Genuine Risk are all back in the pack this season.

Although they lost last year’s leading scorer (Slaptrick Swayze) to retirement, the offense remains mostly in place. Let by titmouse, Udre, and second-year skater Kill-Her At Large, double threats SewWhat? and LowBlow Palooza could also be called upon to bolster the jammer rotation.

CN Power bench coach, Wade Wheelson, returns for the start of the 2014 season.

FRESH FACES

The Betties did well in what was, arguably, the deepest ToRD draft ever. Darth Kater could provide some immediate help in the jammer rotation, having dominated in Durham’s houseleague and for their travel team Devils for a few seasons. Honey Boom Boom is also track ready, having starred last season for the DVAS and the Rollergettes before that. Jenny Specter comes to ToRD having gotten her start in LOCO derby, while former DVAS WackedHer and Babushkill will make their long-anticipated debuts this season. Jammher’head Shark is another DVAS-developed skater.

THE OUTLOOK

With such a strong returning core, the Betties have a shot to reproduce last year’s considerable success, and with their opponents, the Chicks, having improved so much from last year, this Saturday’s matchup could tell a lot about how things are going to play out for the Betties in 2014 and what it will take for them to get back to the Battle for the Boot.

***Doors open at 4:00 PM at The Bunker in Downsview Park with Betties and Chicks kicking things off at 5:00 PM. Tickets are available online or at a number of outlets throughout the city.

Beast of the East 2014 Participants Named

Beast of the East 2014 is the seventh annual house league roller derby tournament hosted by Montreal Roller Derby. It is a sixteen team, two-day, double elimination tournament featuring teams exclusively from eastern Canada. Listed are this year’s participants by league.

Montreal Roller Derby logoMontreal Roller Derby

La Racaille

Les Contrabanditas

Les Filles du Roi

All three Montreal teams return once again. Last year, La Racaille (champs in 2009, runners up in 2008 and 2010), reached their fourth final. After Les Filles du Roi’s victory in 2010, Les Contrabanditas (runners up in 2009) remain the only Montreal team to have yet won the tournament.

Rideau Valley ROller Gilrs logoRideau Valley Roller Girls

Slaughter Daughters

Riot Squad

Prime Sinisters

Although the Slaughter Daughters are the defending champions (and winners also in 2011), it is a very new roster that will take part in this year’s tournament. After last season, RVRG formed a new home team (the Prime Sinisters) and re-distributed their rosters. This is the fourth appearance for the Riot Squad and will mark the out-of-Ottawa debut for the Sinisters (they’ll debut at home against the Slaughter Daughters on April 12).

ToRD logoToronto Roller Derby

Death Track Dolls

Gore-Gore Rollergirls

Smoke City Betties

For the first time in Beast history, only three teams will represent Toronto Roller Derby in the tournament (the Chicks Ahoy! did not get selected this season). Last year’s third-place finishers, the Dolls (also third place in 2011) lead ToRD’s charge. The Gore-Gore Rollergirls were runners up in 2011, while the Betties have not cracked the final four since 2009.

Forest City logoForest City Derby Girls

Thames Fatales

Luscious Lunch Ladies

The Thames Fatales will join the Montreal and Toronto teams as the only participants in all seven Beast of the East tournaments. Last year, Thames made the quarter finals for the first time since 2010. The Lunch Ladies will be making their second consecutive appearance in the tournament.

Roller Derby Quebec logoRoller Derby Quebec

Le Rouge et Gore

Les Casse Gueules

Although they competed as Les Duchesses in 2011 and 2012, last year, RDQ divided its travel team into two home teams, both of whom made their Beast debuts. Le Rouge et Gore turned some heads with an impressive run to the quarterfinals. Les Casse Gueules will be looking for its first tournament win.

Durham Region Roller Derby LogoDurham Region Roller Derby

Atom Smashers

Motor City Madames

The Motor City Madames return to the Beast for the second time after an appearance in 2012. This time though, they’ll be joined by their leaguemates the Atom Smashers, who will be making their debut.

Royal City Roller Girls LogoRoyal City Roller Girls

Killer Queens

Guelph’s Royal City has its first representative at the Beast of the East as the Killer Queens, one of three Royal City home teams, makes its debut. Royal City will be the fifteenth league to take part in the tournament.

The Beast of the East will take place over two days beginning on April 26th. For more information stay tuned to Montreal Roller Derby’s website.