titmouse

Dolls and Chicks Win Big on Opening Night of ToRD’s 2017 Season

crowd-shot-season-opener

There was an energetic crowd at the Bunker for Toronto Roller Derby’s 2017 season opener. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Toronto Roller Derby kicked off its second decade last night in front of a packed track at the Bunker. With revamped rosters and many new faces on the league’s four home teams, there were a lot of questions coming into the season opener and although the games lacked the parity seen in many of last year’s regular season showdowns, all four teams gave something for their fans to cheer about.

Death Track Dolls 247 vs. Gore-Gore Rollergirls 105

It was the 16th of March in 2014 when Rainbow Fight last strapped on the quads in a Toronto Roller Derby game. The sanctioned season opener between the ToRD All Stars and the Killamazoo Derby Darlins was Fight’s WFTDA debut and despite loads of expectations, she did not disappoint. Joining a deep jammer rotation that had made waves in the 2013 Division 1 WFTDA playoffs, Rainbow led the way in scoring with 110 points over the course of six jams, part of an overwhelming ToRD attack, but then what seemed a simple hit in a hard-hitting affair changed everything.

rainbow-returns

Rainbow Fight had a big impact in her return to ToRD after a two-year absence. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Diagnosis: lacerated kidney. It would be more than a year before Rainbow would return to the track, this time back with her hometown league, St. John’s 709 Derby Girls. And on Saturday night, the long road back continued when she joined a rebuilt Death Track Dolls team that she had last laced up for in a record-setting 2013 season. Although she saw limited action with the star in the season opener, she was a force in the pack and part of a well-rounded Dolls performance that caught many by surprise with what turned out to be a one-sided victory over a Gore-Gore Rollergirls team that they had not beaten in two years.

The Gores actually got out to a quick start, opening up an early lead of 14-5 that they built to 18-9 before a topsy-turvy fifth jam in which the teams traded jammer penalties, and saw Dolls’ rookie jammer (but former Vipers’ standout) Scrappy pick up 10 points to help her team take its first lead. The teams continued to match each other blow-for-blow over the next few jams with the Dolls opening up a slight 14-point gap. The Gores took their first timeout of the game, and it sparked something in the team as veteran-jammer Beaver Mansbridge followed up the break with a 19-point jam that saw the Gores retake the lead 52-48.

arg-v-gores

Dolls rookie ARRRguile looks to open a lane held by Gores Commander Will Wrecker and Santa Muerte. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The lead, however, would last precisely one jam. And a few minutes later, with the Dolls up 10 and the Gores threatening, Rainbow Fight donned the star for the first time, picking up a casual 24 points (in part due to some excellent blocking—this was not a powerjam) to give the Dolls the biggest lead of the game (90-56) and one that they would not relent the rest of the way.

The Dolls dominated lead-jammer status in the first half 12-5 (extending that to 23-12 overall) which forced the Gores into numerous star-pass scrambles (the Dolls did a better job of separating the pivot and jammer in the second half). However, the game was truly put away over the first seven jams after the break: leading 105-61 at halftime, the Dolls dominated the Gores over that opening stretch, outscoring them 56-11 and effectively putting the game out of reach.

With significant turnover in the off-season, the Gores were experimenting with their jammer rotation using Royal City transfer Thighlight of Your Life (22 points and 40% lead percentage) and Vipers graduate Mina Von Tease (12, 30%) significantly, but got their most steady performances from the returning jammers Beaver Mansbridge (33, 50%) and Murdercat! (30, 33%). The pack was led by veterans Santa Muerte (beginning her eighth season with the Gores), Viktory Lapp, and Stabbey Road, but also featured great play from improving Tara Bush and from Dolls’ off-season transfer Commander Will Wrecker, who delivered a number of heavy shoulder hits to her former Dolls teammates. They also got some solid play from Durham Region transfers Psycho Magnet and Hatin’ McWrath.

The Dolls, meanwhile, were led offensively by Holly Rocket (78 points, 75% lead percentage), with scoring spread out evenly among the other members of the rotation: Scrappy (35, 73%), Bat Ma’am (34, 50%), and in quality (but limited action), Rainbow Fight (49, 100%) and Ellen Rage (45, 60%). The pack has remained mostly unchanged from 2016 anchored by the aforementioned Rainbow Fight but also veterans DaSilva, Wheatabitch, Getcha Kicks, and Dawson (back for her Doll-record ninth season) but bolstered significantly by off-season transfers Kate Silver (from Mad Rollin’ Dolls) and Candy Crunch (Montreal).

Smoke City Bandits 94 vs. Chicks Ahoy! 266

In the biggest off-season change in the league, the Smoke City Betties (formed pre-ToRD in 2006, and one of the first flat track roller derby teams in Canada) changed their name (but not their look), debuting as a rebranded Smoke City Bandits at the season opener. Meanwhile, the team that saw the least off-season turnover, the defending champion Chicks Ahoy!, picked up exactly where they left off after last year’s championship run. And while the Chicks dominated the first three quarters of the matchup, the Bandits showed that they could still be a team to watch in 2017 as they refused to quit and roared back in the end, outscoring the champs over the final fifteen minutes of the game avoiding what was beginning to look like a record-setting win for the Chicks.

tits-fiure-neil

Bandits jammer titmouse tries to evade a hit from Francesca Fiure. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Despite the plethora of new faces, it was cagey 8-year veteran titmouse who got things started for the Bandits (returning to the jammer rotation after a year spent in the pack), picking up a quick 3 points to give her team an early lead. However, it was another veteran, twelfth-year skater Boxcar, who got the Chicks on the board with a (fitting) 12-point jam that gave the Chicks the only lead they’d need.

It was steading sailing for the Chicks over the next 45 minutes or so, holding the Bandits scoreless over streaks of seven jams and then four jams twice on their way to a 126-30 halftime lead. One thing to note, however, was how clean the game was in terms of penalties with the Chicks picking up only four and the Bandits picking up seven (with two being to jammers resulting in 12-point and then 18-point jams), resulting in a fast-paced and quickly played opening thirty.

Riding a very experienced jammer rotation (unchanged over last year’s championship run) and some solid pack work, the Chicks looked to be every bit in championship form to kick off the second half, going on a thoroughly dominant thirteen-jam run in which they outscored the Bandits 94-2, building an incredible 220-32 lead.

However, it was then that things changed.

The Bandits picked up the team’s first power jam midway through the half and once again it was veteran titmouse who put down 9 points in her team’s biggest jam of the game. And suddenly, the Bandits were rolling.

Looking more and more together in the pack, Smoke City held the Chicks scoreless for six straight after the power jam, while wracking up 31 of their own and although they couldn’t contain the Chicks the rest of they way, the Bandits continued their best sustained play of the game straight through to the end, outscoring the champs 62-46 over that stretch (accounting for two-thirds of their total points).

box-blow-neil

Chicks jammer Boxcar, caught up in a swarm of skaters, scored 72 points on a 100% lead percentage. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

For the most part, both teams stuck to a pretty tight four-jammer rotation, and because of the lack of penalties in the first half, the same jammers faced off throughout the first thirty. Rookie Killa HurtZ (28 points, 45% lead percentage) had a strong debut for the Bandits, going toe-to-toe with 2016 league leading scorer Monster Muffin (72, 58%), who was held to a 50% lead percentage in the first half. Boxcar (72, 100%) had the best game among the jammers, getting lead nine-straight times before shifting into the pack and finishing with an impressive 6 points per jam average. Second-year skater Banshee (53, 58%) was third in team scoring with Chicks scoring rounded out by Sleeper Hold (49, 46%). Along with Killa HurtZ  and titmouse (26, 62%) the Bandits offence was anchored by Royal City transfer Brawnson (27, 33%) who had an impressive debut. After a slow start, long-serving veteran (but only second-year jammer) Genuine Risk rounded out the scoring, picking up 11 points in the second half.

While both teams are still dealing with pre-season injuries to key skaters, the deep Chicks pack was led by current longest-serving Chick Robber Blind and anchored by the incredible pack play of Rosemary’s Rabies (who despite an already long career still seems to get better and better every season), Vag Lightning, Annguard, Francesca Fiure and returnee Sammy Destruction (formerly known as Hyena Koffinkat), who also put up 21 points in limited action with the star.

The Bandits were also led by a core of veterans around whom the team is rebuilding its pack: Morton, Jamm’herhead Shark, Lowblow Palooza, Fight and Anne Bulance were all key contributors, while Rideau Valley transfer pivot Jessica Rabid led the way for the newcomers.

Nerd Glasses

*The game was broadcast by RogersTV Check local listings for replays.

*Next up for all four teams is a February 11th double header that will see the Dolls and Chicks square off for first place, and the Bandits and the Gores go for their first win of the season.

* All stats are unofficial.

Advertisements

Battle for the Boot 7: The 2013 ToRD Championship

Battle for the Boot 7: The 2013 TorD Champs PosterHistory will be made at the 2013 Battle for the Boot. Regardless of the outcome in this first ever championship showdown between the Death Track Dolls and the Smoke City Betties, a first time ToRD champion will be named, added to the list that so far has included only the Gore-Gore Rollergirls (2007, 2009, 2010) and the Chicks Ahoy! (2008, 2011, 2012). It’s a historic moment in this early history of ToRD, representing the first true power shift in the league from the early consistent dominance of the Gores and Chicks (who also met in five of the first six championship games). The 2013 season and the 7th Battle for the Boot represent nothing less the beginning of a new era in Toronto Roller Derby.

PAST

These two teams both have distinct histories. Formed in early 2006 in a pre-ToRD Toronto, the Smoke City Betties joined Hammer City, Montreal Roller Derby and Edmonton’s Oil City as the first wave of flat track roller derby in Canada and would form the pillars that would provide a foundation for the explosive growth of the sport in the country that would follow.

At the same time that the Betties exploded on to the scene, another team would rise in Toronto, the Terrors. Both the Terrors and Betties would see their numbers swell by the time that the Betties would host the first ever Canadian inter-league tournament, the Betties D-Day, in August 2006. Leading up to that tournament, the Terrors would split into four teams: the Chicks Ahoy!, the Bay Street Bruisers, The D-VAS and finally, the Death Track Dolls.

The Betties and the Gores face off in the 2009 Battle for the Boot. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

The Betties and the Gores face off in the 2009 Battle for the Boot. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

In the coming months, the Betties too would divide, giving birth to the Gore-Gore Rollergirls and the six teams in Toronto would unify to form Toronto Roller Derby. In 2007, the inaugural season, the Dolls would struggle, going winless, while the Betties competed but could not reel in the Chicks and Gores. It was a similar story in 2008 when both the Dolls and Betties would lose in the semifinals. Following contraction in 2009 (when the Bruisers and D-VAS were removed from the houseleague), the Betties surged while the Chicks stumbled and the Dolls slipped to last in the new four-team ToRD. Yet again, the Betties would find themselves held back by the team that had spawned from them, the Gores, in the Battle for the Boot 3. It was a historic loss for the team that would see the core of the squad gutted in the ’09-2010 off season and forced into a complete rebuild.

Since that time the fortunes of the Dolls and Betties has ebbed and flowed, with the Betties finishing last in the league in 2010 and 2011, and the Dolls stumbling to fourth in 2012. With losing seasons racking up and top draft picks coming their way, it was only a matter of time before the Dolls and Betties would emerge as contenders.

The Dolls dominated the regular season showdown between these teams, winning 265-63. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Dolls dominated the regular season showdown between these teams, winning 265-63. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

PRESENT

Both teams entered 2013 with high hopes. After a two-year absence, the Betties returned to the ToRD semifinals in 2012 and hoped to build on that this season. The Dolls, on the other hand, missed the playoffs for the first time since 2009, but drafted experience and had clearly built a base that looked ready to compete in 2013. While the Dolls got off to a better start, the Betties stumbled out of the gates, losing to the Gores and then suffering the team’s worst loss in history to the Dolls to close out the season. But both have also been on the rise: The Dolls clumsily defeated the Chicks to kick off the season, then lost to Forest City’s Timber Rollers (a WFTDA apprentice travel tram), before taking out the Gores and finally rolling into form against the Betties to clinch a spot in the final. The Betties looked lost at times this season, before finally coming together as a team in the semifinal and eliminating the Gores, ending the Gores’ six-year run as Battle for the Boot participants.

In short, both teams are peaking at just the right time.

FUTURE

After battling through injuries in 2012, Audrey Hellborn is back menacing jammers in 2013. (Photo by Greg Russell)

After battling through injuries in 2012, Audrey Hellborn (right) is back menacing jammers in 2013. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The future is now for the Dolls and Betties, and there is no doubt that neither team is looking further into the future than this coming Saturday. The Dolls seem poised, riding a relentless pack and an untouchable four-jammer rotation, all indications point to this game being theirs to lose. Although they started strong, the Betties could mount little offense against the Dolls in their regular season showdown (only managing 22 points in the second half) and will need to find a way to produce some offense.

While both teams have a depth of experience on the bench, there are some key players to watch. The Dolls co-captains Scarcasm and Speedin’ Hawking have been leading excellent packs all season, and in the centre of it all has been Audrey Hellborn. Audrey was a dominant player in the league’s early history but a variety of injuries over the past few years have kept her out of the spotlight: in 2013 she’s roared back into the picture, and her relentless jammer killing has turned around jams and games. Also, the addition of transfer Rainbow Fight has given the Dolls a multi-faceted weapon to rely on. Rainbow has been incredible in the pack but has also put up jammer numbers (8.0 PPJ, 88% lead percentage) that have never been seen before.

Betties co-captains Hailey Copter (jammer) and Misery Mae will need to have strong games for the Betties to succeed. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Betties co-captains Hailey Copter (jammer) and Misery Mae (pivot) will need to have strong games for the Betties to succeed. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

For the Betties, the co-captains Misery Mae and Hailey Copter will be key. Hailey has struggled at times this season seeing her numbers drop from 2012’s career high 3.6 PPJ and 50% lead percentage to 2.6 PPJ and a 39% lead percentage this season (Slaptrick Swayze just inched out Hailey as the team’s leading scorer, 126-123, and will have to be strong as well). But Hailey clearly remains the heart and soul of the offense. Misery Mae, who was a key offensive blocker in the semifinal, will need to put in a similar performance in the champs if the Betties hope to crack the Dolls’ killer defense. And finally, Wolverina has emerged as a key triple threat for this team, and will need to provide go-to offense for the Betties while remaining steady in the pack.

* Get your tickets now for this historic showdown! They are available online or at a number of vendors in the city. Doors open at 6:00 PM and be sure to be there for the Toronto Junior Roller Derby exhibition. Opening whistle of the Battle for the Boot is 7:30.

Gores and Betties Continue Playoff Rivalry in ToRD Semifinal

The Gores and Betties’ first playoff meeting was in the 2008 semifinals (won by the Gores 106-70). (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

The Gore-Gore Rollergirls and Smoke City Betties have an interesting history. The Betties are one of the oldest teams not only in Toronto, but in Canadian roller derby in general. The hosts of the first ever Canadian interleague tournament (Betties D-Day in August 2006), the Betties literally spawned the Gore-Gore Rollergirls:  On the eve of Toronto Roller Derby’s inaugural 2007 season, the Betties split into two, forming the Gores. Although the two sister teams would not meet  during the 2007 season, the Gores asserted mastery over their sisters when they crushed the Betties 120-47 in the 2008 season opener. This dominance continued in subsequent  regular seasons, and spilled over into the playoffs as well, seeing the Gores eliminate the Betties in the 2008 and 2010 semifinals, not to mention the 2009 Battle for the Boot.  Coming in to the 2012 season, the Gores had an overwhelming 7-0 record against their counterparts. Of course, records and streaks are meant to be broken, and during the 2012 regular season, the tides finally turned. In the midst of a team-defining season—and taking advantage of a depleted Gores roster—the  Betties simply overwhelmed the Gores to close out the regular season. Now, for the first time ever, the Betties have to be considered the favourites as they head into this semi-final rematch.

PATIENCE PAYS OFF

This season, the Betties defeated the Gores for the first time ever (142-50). (Photo by Neil Gunner)

It’s been a season of rebirth for the Smoke City Betties. Despite early season losses to the Death Track Dolls and Chicks Ahoy!, their performances were light years above and beyond those of the previous two seasons. In both games, brilliant beginnings gave way to missed opportunities: against the Dolls, the Betties led at half, while they jumped out to a 22-0 lead against the Chicks before being blown out in the end. But a strong, confidence-building quarterfinal appearance at the Beast of the East showed that this team was on the verge of something special, and it all came together in the regular season finale. It was a fast, even, well-paced game throughout much of the first half, while the Gores leapt out to a quick lead, the Betties always seemed a step ahead. With a killer-instinct not seen in years, the Betties eventually took advantage of an undermanned and battered Gores to run away with it in the end.

Even with star rookies, the Betties are still led by veterans like Lady Scorcher, titmouse and BruiseBerry Pie. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Consistency has been the trademark of this Betties team, a consistency built from a solid core. Seven skaters skated over 40% of the Betties jams this season, paced by veteran Mia Culprit who lead the league with a 60% track percentage and was the team’s dominant pivot. Sin D Drop-her, Lady Scorcher, BruiseBerry Pie, Platinum Bomb, and Misery Mae provided the leadership support in the pack, while titmouse, putting together the best season of her career (130 points, 50% lead percentage), led a jammer rotation that included BruiseBerry Pie (3.7 points per jam), Wolverina (am emerging double threat) and rookie-of-the year contender Slaptrick Swayze (57% lead percentage). Slaptrick’s greatest challenge for rookie of the year may actually come in the form of her teammate Renny Rumble. Renny looked like a veteran on the track, and was rewarded with ample track time, finishing with a 53% jam percentage and a plus/minus of +70.

A REBUILD IN  PROGRESS

For the first time ever, the Gores did not finish atop the regular season standings. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

The Gore-Gore Rollergirls entered the 2012 season having not lost a ToRD regular season game in four years (their one and only loss); they stagger into the 2012 playoffs having lost two of three. After dominating the first five seasons of ToRD (winning three championships and appearing in all five finals), the Gores find themselves in the unusual position of having to face adversity.  Injuries to top jammers Dust Bunny and Bambi (and a lack of depth at the position) coupled with injuries to some key pack players (like Aston Martini) and the retirement of others (like Brim Stone) left the team exposed and vulnerable (and needing to call up D-VAS injury replacements, which they will also have to do for the semifinals), and the Betties took advantage in the final game of the season, serving the Gores their worst defeat in ToRD history (142 points). Their third place finish marks the first time ever that the Gore-Gore Rollergirls have not finished atop the Toronto Roller Derby regular season standings.

Transfer skater Getcha Kicks will make her ToRD debut with the Gores. (Photo by Joe Mac)

The Gores pack has taken a hit this season, but despite missing another key blocker Molly Boom for this game, they still have a solid core of Lady Gagya, Chronic, and Foxy Sinatra leading the way. Where they may run into trouble is with offense. Despite missing one full game (Bambi) or virtually one full game (Dust Bunny), the Gore-Gore Rollergirls top jammers still had remarkable seasons. Both Bambi and Dusty finished the season with over 100 points (120 and 111 respectively), equal 45% lead percentages, and solid jammer plus/minuses (+47 and +52). While Bambi will be available for the game, she has not skated in virtually two months and may not be her usual self. Unfortunately for the Gores, the jammer depth doesn’t extend far down the bench. This season efforts were made to advance both Draculaura and Santa Muerte into the roles, and while each had limited success, neither has the experience to anchor an offense. This is where it could get interesting for the D-VAS call ups. LowBlowPalooza gained considerable jamming experience with the D-VAS this season including a lot of track time at the recent Fresh and Furious Tournament, and recent transfer skater Getcha Kicks will make her ToRD debut (she was called up as an alternate in the last Gores’ game). The most experienced of the D-VAS skaters, Getcha has anchored an offense before, and she will be a key addition to the team and could make for an interesting story in the semifinal.

* The ToRD semifinal between the Gore-Gore Rollergirls and the Smoke City Betties will be the main event in a double header. Kicking off the evening will be a showdown between ToRD’s Death Track Dolls and the Queen City houseleague champs the Nickel City Knockouts (out of Buffalo). Doors open at 5:00 PM. The semi-final is scheduled to get underway at 8:00 PM. Tickets are available online or at a number of downtown vendors.

Dolls win and Betties impress in their season openers

Smoke City Betties and Death Track Dolls kicked off their 2012 seasons on Saturday. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Smoke City Betties 100 vs. Death Track Dolls 115

The Betties are back.

After two years of rebuilding led to a string of punishing defeats at the hands of their ToRD leaguemates, the Smoke City Betties have returned to competitive form narrowing the gap between themselves and, at the very least, the third place Death Track Dolls. And while the Dolls were the team that took the brunt of the first wave of this new-look Betties club, they were not at all interested in lying down and allowing the skaters in blue to trod all over them; the Dolls showed their own improved level of determination as they overcame a half-time deficit to come back and snatch away the 15-point victory.

The biggest issue with the Dolls in 2011 was an unbalanced and inconsistent offense, and although they do have what looks like a future jamming star in rookie Bellefast, it seems that for the Dolls to find success in 2012, they will need to provide offense by committee and they used a deep rotation of six jammers in their season opening win, rotating primary veteran blockers like Jubilee and Panty Hoser from the pack onto the jammer line. The Betties, on the other hand, seem to have a fairly set rotation of jammers that they rolled out to much success on Saturday. Second-year skater Rug Burn took on the star for the first jam of the season and lined up against an imposing triple threat in Betty Bomber, and was joined by BruiseBerry Pie and titmouse as the primary jammers. It was a back and forth battle in the early going with neither team able to shake the other, and after 5 minutes, neither had taken control , with the Dolls holding a precarious 10-9 edge.

Scarcasm (providing a bridge for the Dolls' front wall) was one of many impressive rookies in the game. (Photo by Greg Russell)

In a game that was all about renewal and the future, it was the rookies who stood out in this one. The Dolls played three of their impressive draftees and from Bellefast’s fearless jamming to Ames to Kill’s poise in the pack to Scarcasm’s impressive track awareness (providing some nice bridging early in the half), this rookie class is living up to the hype that preceded the season. The Betties also tracked impressive rookies Renny Rumble, Laya Beaton and Slaptrick Swayze (along with sort-of-rookie Wolverina).  But in another return of sorts, injury-plagued skater titmouse, looked in mid-season form (despite being off skates for the last few months), and was a big part of the Betties early success, as they held a 20-19 lead eight jams into the first half. At this point, the Dolls began to inch ahead, riding a wave of slightly undisciplined play from the Betties and using a power jam to snatch the biggest lead of the half, 44-20. But the Betties would not yield, and once again it was titmouse who stepped up late in the half, and on a jam in which the Betties were able to recycle Demolition Dawn continuously, she picked up a string of natural grand slams that saw the Betties retake the lead, 47-44. A series of back-and-forth jams kept things close, with the Betties holding a six-point edge at the break, 58-52.

Veteran Bettie Sin D Drop-Her working with rookie Renny Rumble in the pack. (Photo by Joe Mac)

While rookies stepped up in this bout, veterans certainly left their mark on the game as well. Dolls co-captain Panty Hoser put in early notification of her interest in the triple-threat award as she looked very comfortable jamming (despite the fact that she’d never jammed in a game before). Her captain-counterpart Sinead O’Clobber also continues to emerge as an on-track leader , leading smart packs and helping to orchestrate the second half push back, aided by steady play from pack-vets Monichrome, Downright Dirty Dawson, Lucid Lou, and Slam Wow. Within four minutes of the restart the Dolls had retaken the lead, 65-61. Mia Culprit, Lady Scorcher and Sin D Drop-Her anchored the Betties defense and helped orchestrate the mid-half comeback. With 17 minutes remaining, Hoser got sent to the box, springing a Rug Burn power jam, and a solid offensive block from Scorcher helped the Betties regain the lead.

The lead changes continued through the middle of the half, with the Dolls holding a slight edge, 89-88 with ten minutes remaining. The Betties looked to mix things up by putting Wolverina on the line, but the Dolls locked in the defense at this point and held on to the momentum. With seven minutes remaining, it was a Rug Burn major cut (and subsequent power jam skated by Hoser) that finally may have turned the tides in the Dolls’ favour: solid isolation and trapping by Bomber and Jubilee assured a big pick up, and they took the biggest lead of the half, 108-92. Despite the best efforts of BruiseBerry Pie and titmouse on the line, the Betties were unable to mount a comeback, and some clutch late-game jamming from Bellefast (who may not have gotten lead in her final few jams, but always passed cleanly and forced calls) allowed the Dolls to ride out the wave at the end and hold on for the 115-100 victory.

titmouse made an impressive return from injury to anchor the Betties' offense. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Along with all of the debut skaters, Mr. Wencer on the Dolls’ bench and Raunchy Hextall on the Betties’, also made their bench managing debuts, and the benches ran smoothly all night. While both teams have to be pleased with the way things went, the league itself was victorious as well. This bout, along with a thrilling season opener between the Gore-Gore Rollergirls and the Chicks Ahoy!, means that after a few years of blowouts and wide gaps in talent, ToRD is nearing a level of competitive parity that has not been seen in years. With this year’s rookie class looking to be the most successful and deepest yet, and all four teams anchored by solid veteran cores, 2012 looks to be a very exciting year for roller derby fans in Toronto.

***Next up for ToRD is the third annual Quad City Chaos on the weekend of March 31st and April 1st. Stay tuned to the ToRD website for ticket availability.

Dolls and Betties Tussle for a Playoff Spot

The Dolls took the last year's meeting between these two teams, 213-53.

Death Track Dolls (0-1) vs. Smoke City Betties (0-1)

In 2011 there are no playoffs for the ToRD’s 4th place team, which means that starting the season 0-2 could potentially end the championship dreams of either the Smoke City Betties or the Death Track Dolls. But playoff hopes aside, there is a lot more at stake for these two teams at this early stage of the year; namely, pride. Both teams entered 2011 with high hopes. After a year of being the league’s doormat, the Betties drafted for experience and relied on the memories of all those painful 2010 learning experiences to drive them forward into a new era. The Dolls, who had recently gone through growing pains of their own, competed in 2010, going toe-to-toe with Battle for the Boot finalists the Chicks until the second half of last season’s semifinal; nonetheless, with the least amount of roster change this off season, hopes were high.

So it was met with great disappointment when both of these teams struggled out of the gate. The Dolls looked flat in their bout against a Gore-Gore Rollergirls squad loaded with rookies (though they managed some inspired pushes at various moments), while the Betties looked far from unified in their effort against the Chicks Ahoy! relying on the strong individual play of a few key players to keep them in it at all. Needless to say, both teams will be looking for a lot more in this one.

The Dolls will rely on their veteran pivots to control the packs and keep things tight. (photo by Sean Murphy)

THE DOLLS WIN IF…

They play a smart (clean) and simple game. That worked for the Chicks against the Betties and there is no reason to think that it won’t again. A big part of the reason that the Dolls looked overmatched in their season opener was due to a tendency to continue to play an individual game. While this won’t be as big of an issue against the Betties as it was against the ultra-organized Gores, if the Dolls want to take that next step in the competitive ladder, they are going to have to step it up and buy into the types of systems that separate the top teams from the bottom. Following the leads of experienced pivots Panty Hoser, Monichrome and Dolly Parts’ Em will be key. They’ll also have to play a fairly clean bout as well, and their 32 minors against the Gores was only three less than the amount the Betties picked up against the Chicks.

Betty Bomber has become a key jammer for the Dolls, but her presence in the pack is missed. (photo by Kevin Konnyu)

Offense could be the most interesting story in this one. The Dolls jammers ate up the Betties last season, with Land Shark, Betty Bomber and Audrey Hellborn all putting up big numbers. Hellborn’s out for the season and they have yet to find a suitable replacement for her: combined, Sharky and Bomber had the star for an amazing 90% of their team’s jams against the Gores. Remarkably, they seemed to hold up well under the pressure. Land Shark had a comparatively inconsistent season in 2010, but was back to her old self against the Gores, leading the offense as her team’s top rated jammer, scoring 24 points (1.04 PPJ) and managing a 43% lead percentage against formidable opposition. But not having much depth at the position means that Bomber, who is also important in the pack, is stuck playing a one-role game.

Betties vets like Pretty Peeved will be key in getting this team back on track. (photo by Sean Murphy)

THE BETTIES WIN IF…

Well…It’s not quite as simple for the Betties.

In a pre-season interview, when asked about the Betties, Dolls co-captain Betty Bomber said with confidence that “as long as [the Betties] can work together, they will be a team to look out for this season.” Portentous foreshadowing that didn’t play out in the season opener but could become a reality at any time. With an abundance of individual talent, the Betties need to put those pieces together in a unified effort; the Chicks dominated the pack against the Betties, and were unmatched in their walls and isolation strategies. But this Betties team was like a sponge last year, soaking up knowledge in the face of defeat, and that attitude seemed to persist after the opener this year: in post-bout interviews with ToRD.TV both Bruiseberry Pie and Sail Her Poon cited better pack strategies as a key for this team moving forward. It seems that the Betties need to define roles for themselves on the track and on the team, but determined play from veteran pivot Pretty Peeved and jammer Memphis Kitty is hopeful.

Sail Her Poon clears a path for titmouse during their 2011 season opener. (photo by Derek Lang)

While defensively, they held the Chicks to significantly less than the 266 points they managed last year, they were unable to generate any offense. Only Memphis Kitty managed to hit double digits (11 points—she was also the only jammer to manage over 30 % lead percentage). But a little help from a more-together pack could help titmouse continue to build on the invaluable experience she has been gaining with CN Power in 2011 (including a spirited effort against the Skids at the QCC). Sail Her Poon (who had a strong bout but didn’t jam against the Chicks) also has been jamming with the All Stars and managed some measure of success jamming against the Dolls last season, scoring 13 points. Tropic Thunder was also effective against the Dolls in 2010, leading the Betties in scoring with 18 points. While both she and Poon each managed only a 17% lead percentage, upon closer inspection you can see that those two were consistently matched against the Dolls’ top three jammers (Bomber, Land Shark and the currently injured Audrey Hellborn), making leads a hard thing to come by for the rookie jammers.

***Tickets for the April 16 bout are available online or at a number of downtown vendors. Doors at the Hangar open at 6:30 p.m., opening whistle at 7:30.

ToRD.TV sets up the bout with Dolls veteran (and ToRD.TV personality) Monichrome:

Gores vs. Chicks in Toronto / Skids vs. The World in London.

The last time these two teams met was at the 2010 Battle for the Boot (won by the Gores, 107-31).

Gore-Gore Rollergirls (1-0) vs. Chicks Ahoy! (1-0)

Surprise, surprise.

After one round of ToRD’s 2011 regular season, the Gore-Gore Rollergirls and the Chicks Ahoy! find themselves battling for first overall. Historically, these are the two top teams in Toronto Roller Derby and not much seems to have changed this year. Neither were particularly tested in their opening bouts of 2011, as the Chicks dominated a disorganized Smoke City Betties squad 131-22, and the Gores were in control of an overmatched Death Track Dolls for most of their 107-43 victory. And although the Gores earned a one-sided victory the last time these teams met (at the 2010  Battle for the Boot), this is a much different Chicks team. The veteran Chicks squad that qualified for their third championship match in 2010 had the feeling of a “last-chance team,” and there was a certain predictability about them. The influx of fresh faces on the roster has given this year’s team a new spark, and a renewed focus. It was a change predicted by Gores co-captain Brim Stone. “I think the Chicks will have a much stronger and more consistent season [in 2011],” she said in a preseason interview, and so far that has played out after a strong exhibition bout and the one-sided home opener. “But the Gores will still be able to take them!” Brim was quick to add.

Brim Stone has joined the Gores' jammer rotation this season. (photo by Kevin Konnyu)

And until a team proves otherwise on the track, the Gores are still the team to beat in this league. The opening bout victory was their tenth straight ToRD win dating back to 2008, and they looked confident and collected in doing so. The Gores are much more experienced at integrating newcomers into the roster than the Chicks, and once again the rookies do not look out of place. Replacing Lunchbox though, has been a much bigger challenge. “She was a key personality…and always the calm voice of reason!” says Brim Stone, noting that the star jammer’s skates “were big skates to fill.” And at least in the first bout of the season that task has fallen straight to Brim’s feet; she will be important in matching up against the Chicks’ veteran jammers like co-captain Candy Crossbones. When asked how she thinks the Chicks will perform against the Gores in this bout, Candy exclaims, “Hopefully better than [the championship]!” The Chicks seemed frustrated during that last meeting and Candy admits as much. “The Gores can be frustratingly good,” she says, “I know we have the raw talent to match or beat them, but it remains to be seen whether we can challenge their awesome teamwork.”

And teamwork will undoubtedly tell the tale in this one.

Chicks' rookie, Kookie Doe was a go-to jammer in her ToRD debut agains the Betties. (photo by Sean Murphy)

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

1. Lead Percentage: Currently, the top 6 rated jammers in the league are on these two teams, and don’t expect the offensive matchups to change for this one. Both teams primarily rely on a three-jammer rotation, and each team’s rotation is anchored by two more-than-capable veterans. Current JQ rating leaders Dyna Hurtcha and Candy Crossbones lead the way for the Chicks, while the Gores respond with Bambi and Dust Bunny, who are, statistically, the two most dominant jammers in ToRD’s history. Neither team has much depth beyond their top two, but Brim Stone, who apprenticed somewhat in 2010, took on the role in the season opener, while the Chicks relied on Kookie Doe who was surprisingly effective against the Betties last month. With all four of the main jammers capable of playing solid jammer defence (Candy Crossbones seems to revel in it, while Dyna’s experience in the pack makes her a formidable physical presence), getting lead jammer status to control the outcomes will be key. While Dyna Hurtcha currently has the highest lead percentage (79%), when you look at overall team lead percentage, the two teams are virtually even at 67% (Chicks) and 65% (Gores). The key will come down to how well Kookie Doe is able to build on her impressive debut, and how well the Chicks are able to support her against a significantly stiffer challenge from the Gores. The difference maker here could be the much more experienced Brim Stone (who is still a relative rookie with the star) winning a one-on-0ne showdown with her Chicks counterpart.

Nasher the Smasher (lining up Betties' titmouse) has cleaned up her act in 2011. (photo by Sean Murphy)

2. Discipline: 29-5-7. These numbers represent the Chicks’ accumulated totals of minor penalties (29), major penalties (5), and penalty minutes served (7); significant because all three numbers are the lowest in the league. While it’s true that one clean game against the last-place team in the league doesn’t fully dispel years of major penalty woes, the Chicks’ newfound commitment to discipline should not be overlooked or underestimated. Nasher the Smasher is a prime example: In last year’s bout versus the Betties (which was even more one-sided than this year’s), Nasher still managed to pick up 13 minors, 3 majors and served 6 penalty minutes in 24 jams. This season against the Betties, Nasher stayed perfectly clean for 21 jams on her way to a league leading +57 plus/minus (she’s tied with teammate Tara Part, one ahead of Gores’ Hurlin’ Wall). Similarly, in the 2010 championship bout the Gores punished the Chicks by taking advantage of the Girls in Green’s 29 penalty minutes. On the flip side, while the Chicks are having one of the cleanest seasons in team history, the Gores find themselves uncharacteristically second in majors (8) and tied for second in minutes served (11). Staying out of the box will be key in this one.

For the most part, the Gores controlled the pack at the 2010 ToRD championships. (photo by Kevin Konnyu)

3. Pack Control: As much as the jammers are going to have a huge influence on this one, she who controls the pack controls the game. Aside from a few well-executed, Rebel Rock-It led power kills, the Gores seemed to have complete control over the pack the last time these two teams squared off, and the Chicks simply cannot let that happen again. With traditional lead-pivot Brim Stone joining the jammer rotaton, pivoting was spread out, especially with second-in-command Molly Boom suffering some penalty troubles against the Dolls.  But with a veteran stable capable of donning the stripe (Lady Gagya, Kandy Barr and Junkie Jenny) and a rookie who looks to be a pivot-in-training (Emma Dilemma), the Gores are still a pack to be reckoned with. However, with Rebel, Tara, Nasher and Mega Bouche pivoting for the Chicks, it’s not that they are lacking in experience or ability: the difference the last time these two teams met was that the Gores controlled the play—they created on the track—while the Chicks just seemed to be reacting to the Gores’ game. Whoever “creates” in this one, could come away with a victory.

The winner of this bout will move into first place in ToRD’s regular season standings, one step closer to that all important bye straight to the 2011 Battle for the Boot. The loser will be left to watch the April 16th Dolls vs. Betties bout scouting a potential semi-final opponent.

**Tickets for the April 9th bout are on sale online or at a number of downtown vendors. Doors at the Hangar open at 6:30p.m., with opening whistle set for 7:30 p.m.

ONE MORE THING

Montreal’s New Skids on the Block, Canada’s top roller derby team (and 14th ranked overall) will be heading overseas this weekend to take part in the Anarchy in the UK tournament hosted by the London Rollergirls. This is the first WFTDA sanctioned tournament to be held overseas, and also taking part will be the Charm City Roller Girls (Baltimore) and the Steel City Derby Demons (Pittsburgh). The four teams will play in a two-day round robin, facing each other once in full, WFTDA sanctioned bouts. Since all of these teams play in WFTDA’s Eastern Region, the results are significant.  Charm and Steel City come in as the top ranked teams in the tourney (3rd and 5th respectively), while Montreal sits 7th and London remains unranked due to lack of activity. But, these rankings are still based on 2010’s end-of-year stats (2011 1st quarter rankings should be out shortly), and a lot has happened already this year. A more accurate pre-tournament predictor could be DNN’s power rankings and Flat Track Stats. DNN has Charm leading the way at 9th In WFTDA (all regions), but it’s Montreal next in their ranking (14) with Steel City (18) and London (22) rounding it out. Flat Track Stats is similar, but they have Montreal and Charm in a statistical deadlock at 10th and Steel City behind in 19th. Meaning that the bout to watch this weekend could be Montreal and Charm City’s Sunday match up (11 a.m. eastern, on DNN).

**Read Lord Copper’s DNN preview here. Catch every bit of the action live on DNN.

**Good News: Because of the time difference, all of Saturday’s bouts will be over well before the Gores and Chicks take to the track at the Hangar!

Chicks Smoke the Betties

BruiseBerry Pie made her much anticipated ToRD debut in the Betties' loss. (photo by Sean Murphy)

Smoke City Betties 22 vs. Chicks Ahoy! 131

There was a particular level of anticipation in the Hangar on Saturday night. There were many intriguing stories to follow, from how the new Smoke City Betties “veterans” would perform, to how the Chicks Ahoy! would be able to integrate the largest contingent of fresh meat they’d ever had. But the biggest question was how the actual bout would unfold; after last year’s 250 point blowout, how far had the Betties come? What we did learn was that despite the fact that the Betties are obviously a much better team than they were a year ago, there is still work to be done to get back to a competitive level. After faltering at the beginning of 2010, this year’s Chicks Ahoy! team has come roaring out of the gates, looking calm, organized and strategically sound on their way to an impressive season opening victory.

FIRST HALF

The Chicks' Dyna Hurtcha had a game high 54 points; titmouse had the most track time of her ToRD career. (photo by Sean Murphy)

After gaining considerable experience in a pre-season game in Ottawa, the Chicks had no problems lining up rookie jammer Kookie Doe against the vastly improved titmouse to kick this off. The rookie didn’t look out of place at all, going 4 and done to get her team on the board early (she’d finish with a solid 27 points). Dyna Hurtcha also came to play, laying down the law with some big hits in the pack, before donning the star and picking up points for her team. If Dyna’s level of play at this early stage of the season is any indication, the triple-threat and most-feared award winner of the 2009 season is back 100%. In the recent past, the Betties would not have had a response to a jammer as physical and unintimidated as Hurtcha, but this is a Betties team that looks ready to stand up to any physical challenge. In her ToRD debut, BruiseBerry Pie delivered in a big way, showing no fear in her willingness to go toe-to-toe with the fearsome Chicks pack. And while she was sometimes scattered and erratic when wearing the pivot’s stripe, she was often dominant as a blocker and scored some impressive jammer take outs.

Other veterans stepped up for the Betties as well. Memphis Kitty (who led the Betties with 11 points) continues to be a steadying and reliable presence on the track, helping an early push back that kept the Betties in the game, often facing off against Chicks’ veteran Candy Crossbones (a duo that has been doing battle for as long as this sport has been played in this city). After a smart 2 point call by titmouse, the Betties were certainly within reach, down 20-7, and looking prepared to take the game to the Chicks.

Chicks' Nasher the Smasher had her hands full against old opponent, Mia Culprit, who made her return to the track. (photo by Derek Lang)

With some sloppy, physical packs, this bout was perhaps defined by great one-on-one battles that occurred whether over the course of the bout or just within particular jams. Fifteen minutes in, at what could have been the turning point in the first half, two straight stalemates (followed by a Memphis Kitty single) left the game open for either team to take over. With Dyna Hurtcha on a run and looking to sway the momentum back in the Chicks’ favour, Betties’ co-captain Sail Her Poon stepped up to take her on. Despite bouncing off of the Chicks’ power jammer on the initial pass, Poon stayed on the case and managed a late-jam jammer take out on Hurtcha that limited the damage. But Candy Crossbones (who at this early stage in the year looks to be in as good a shape as she’s been since the Chicks’ 2008 championship season) had a fantastic bout with the star. Aided by amazing pack work from 2010 rookie stand out Marmighty, Candy was dominant on this night whether reeling in jammers and forcing calls or picking up critical points at crucial moments, the Betties didn’t have a response for the scrapper jammer. Memphis Kitty picked up a much needed grand slam on the last jam of the first half; but despite this, the continued physical dominance of Bruise, and a strong positional performance from Pretty Peeved (another skater who looks to be in top form early on this season), the Betties were still staring at a 48-15 deficit at the half.

SECOND HALF

Needing to come out strong to get back into this one, the Betties proved unable to rise to the challenge. With jammer Memphis Kitty in the box, and Dyna Hurtcha lined up for the power jam, the Betties failed to track a full set of blockers, leaving only the scrappy and effective Sail Her Poon to fend off the strong Chicks pack. In the most even of situations, the Chicks dominated the pack all night, putting up great front walls and responding well to their pivot’s direction, so it didn’t take long for Dyna Hurtcha to put up 15 points before Poon actually did her team a favour by being thrown in the box and forcing the refs to call the jam for the inability to form a pack. It was great opportunity for the Betties and Kitty made the most of it, taking lead right out of the box. She got caught up in a collision at the back of the pack on her scoring pass and was forced to call it. It would be a pivotal missed opportunity as Candy Crossbones threw down 9 points on the next jam to give the Chicks a formidable 91-16 lead.

Veteran pivot Pretty Peeved had a strong bout for the Betties. (photo by Joe Mac)

While the Betties clearly have the raw talent to pull things together and be competitive, their success this year will depend in large part on how well they come together as a team.  Along with the bench error (from a bench that seem to verge on over-emotional) there were smaller errors as well such as outscored lead jammers(though in fairness a lot of that was due to savvy jamming on the Chicks’ part, including from their confident rookie, Kookie Doe), or skaters unnecessarily being goated by out-of-play players. It was a typical early season bout, with the skaters only beginning to round into game shape, and therefore understandably mistake prone. And just as there were great individual performances, there were also great team moments as well: The recycling by the Chicks blockers and their ability to hold the front frustrated the Betties all night. And the Chicks’ rookies in the bout—Kookie Doe, Snap N Cooter, Red Light Roxy, and Balla Reina—blended in seamlessly, guided well by their veteran teammates.

The story was much the same for the duration of the second half (in which the Betties only managed 7 points). Despite some spirited play from Betties’ pivot Hot Roller and some big hits and strong defence from the Chicks’s blocker, Nasher the Smasher, long and frequent timeouts (prompting some energetic “Let’s Play Derby” chants from the fans) sapped the remaining energy from this one-sided match up  and the Chicks held the course, sailing away with a  131-22 victory.

Chicks' Marmighty (blocking Platinum Bomb) had an extraordinary start to her second season. (photo by Sean Murphy)

ON THE HORIZON

Despite the loss, the Betties have a lot to take away from this. Strong individual performances from the veteran core (and from their lone tracked rookie, D-VAS graduate, Misery Mae) will provide a great focus going forward. Their young core of jammers is continuing to grow, and titmouse played the biggest game of her young career, gaining valuable experience. As the year progresses the wisdom of drafting veterans BruiseBerry and Mia Culprit should become evident too, as both have a lot to offer this team. It will be interesting to see how unified this group can become before their next bout against the Death Track Dolls (April 16). Despite the changes to the lineup, the Chicks look like they are reading to pick up where they left off, and no doubt will carry a lot of confidence into their 2010 championship rematch against the Gore-Gore Rollergirls on April 9.

Check out the stats breakdown, updated standings and keep up with the 2011 JQ rating to track the league’s top jammers at the Stats Page. Keep an eye on ToRD.TV for a video recap and layer9’s bout footage.