A Shock On The Rise: Jonathan R.

"Play roller derby, be the best, and do it with class!"

Jonathan R., the father and Captain of one of the best men's roller derby teams, New York Shock Exchange (NYSE), poses a serious threat to the Finnish model of a male athlete. This agile, hard-as-nails, strategic player combines artistic roller skating and American football to men's roller derby and is known as the ”Flying Squirrel”.

Finnish "merby" is coming together little by little. It took its first steps in December 2012 when The Sons Of Peaches (TSOP), a team of referees who wanted to try playing, took on a similar Scandinavian ref team The Peaches. The bout was such a mayhem that it can only be explained by the (over)excitement of the guys to be on the actual track instead of the outlines of it. After the dust had settled from this historical prologue to Finnish male derby, Tampere decided to go ahead and put together the first competitive men's roller derby team in the country and challenged TSOP to do the same. This finally led to founding a Team Finland for the World Championships of Men's Roller Derby, which will be held in the spring of 2014.

Like women's roller derby in Finland, the male version is also a bit behind from its American cousin. Men's Roller Derby Association (MRDA) was founded in the US in 2007 and today they have 31 member leagues, of which 28 are based in the States, one in Canada and two in the UK. MRDA hosts their own Championships for the fourth time this year. Jonathan R. was there to see the growth of merby behind the great water, namely in New York. Since its birth in 2007, NYSE has worked its way to the top of men's roller derby leagues in the world. 

Photo: Quick Draw Sports Photography

Jonathan, as the Primus Motor, you probably have the best angle to look at the league's development over the years. NYSE surely is bigger and better, but is it different from the early days?
- The New York Shock Exchange charges forward with the same goals it had on day one; play roller derby, be the best, and do it with class. We fostered a strong sense of brotherhood right from the get go. I am proud to say that as we have grown, we carry on that spirit. Practice is as fun as it ever was.

NYSE won the first MDC Championships in 2010, as well as the second edition (under MRDA) in 2011, but last year you were left outside of the final bout between Your Mom Men's Derby (Des Moines, IA) and St. Louis. How are the rates of the Shock Exchange going to look in the final tournament in Sioux City in October?
- Our goal is to win the championship; simple as that. The competition is super intense. Every team on its way to the MRDA Championship is a huge threat.

So how are you going to pave your way to get there?
- We always hold practice. We had it the day after the all-star team won the MRDA Championship. It is what we like to do; work to get better and play roller derby. We took our big trip to England so, instead of attending any invitational events in May, we are focused on our bouts against Your Mom  in June, St. Louis GateKeepers in July, Central Mass Maelstrom in August, and the Mohawk Valley Cup in August. It looks like we may get another high profile game in as well.

Let's talk about European derby… You came to play Southern Discomfort last year and your victory was crushing. How do you think Southern Discomfort will succeed this season in the big boys league? How do you see American roller derby in general, compared to European?
- I think Southern Discomfort will do well. They could very well be knocking on the door for an invitation to Sioux City in October. The big difference between the US and European roller derby is experience. Many of the teams remind me of where the Shock Exchange was about three years ago. They are learning fast, training to be competitors, and sharpening up their game instincts.


Keeping track since 2010

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Roller derby brought us together, and now we're sharing the love. Finnish derby scene is active, interesting, and constantly evolving, and we want you to know all about it! So if that's what you want as well, you're in the right place.

Back in 2010, a bunch of local roller derby enthusiasts started KARU - an online magazine with a focus on roller derby, and now we're making it international, interactive and easily accessible, baby. We've got people translating the previously published stories, writing new content and sharing their passion.

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Oh, and in case you're wondering, KARU is Finnish and means raw. The name is an acronym of the Finnish words katu (street), asenne (attitude), roller derby, and unelma (dream).