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MRDA’s March 2013 Featured Skater of the Month: Ace of Skates

MRDA’s March 2013 Featured Skater of the Month: Ace of Skates of the New York Shock Exchange

March 7, 2013

Interview by Malcolm Sex

Ace of Skates prepares for battle. Photo by Walter Romero.

 

What is your derby name? What’s the history behind it?

My derby name, Ace of Skates, is a play off of the Mötörhead song “Ace of Spades.” I assure you it has nothing to do with the 1990s band Ace of Base or the TV show Ace of Cakes! This year however, I will be skating under my real name.  As much fun as derby names are, I was never really diehard about it. And, after having played competitive sports my entire life under my real name, I figured I owed it to myself to skate under my real name starting this season.

 

What number do you wear? Why did you choose it?

I chose my current number as an homage to one of my all-time favorite music genres and record labels. Originally my number was 2-Tone, in reference to the influential ska record label out of the UK in the early 1980s. But, over time due to various rules changes and the cost of practice jerseys, I decided to stick with only 2.

 

What is your preferred position on the track?

On the track, I am primarily a defensive blocker, and I believe it’s the best position in the sport.  Day in and day out, it’s my job to make jammers’ lives as difficult as I possibly can.  I love working with my teammates to completely shut down an opposing teams offense, and I enjoy when we can get the opposing jammer to abandon trying to score and switch over to playing defense.  That’s pretty much an ideal jam.

 

Other than the New York Shock Exchange travel team, do you play, referee or coach for other teams?

I am currently in my second season managing the Wall $t Traitors. They are the B team for Gotham Girls Roller Derby.  Managing the Traitors has been a wonderful experience. It has really shown me a lot about what it takes to be a successful team on and off the track.

 

What’s your pre-derby athletic background? How has it influenced your skating style?

My skating style is heavily influenced by my ice hockey background. Having played goaltender, I spent large parts of my youth trying to do whatever I could to develop my lateral movement, agility, and balance to be as quick and efficient as possible when moving around the goal crease to get in the optimal position to make a save.  I feel that these skills have helped me on the track tremendously in all aspects of roller derby. Despite my experience, I still find there’s tons of room for me to improve and grow as a skater.

 

If you needed to take one other skater in all of MRDA onto the track in a key moment of a bout, who would it be?

One of the most amazing things about the Shock Exchange is how everyone seems to be able to step up during critical moments. The team has a way to just make it work. It might not always be pretty, but no matter who is out there, we have built a level of trust that helps us achieve success whoever is on the track.

Ace of Skates donning the jammer star. Photo by Sean Hale.

MRDA has a history of great rivalries. The Shock Exchange is part of several. What is your favorite MRDA rivalry?

Without a doubt, St. Louis! Every time we play the Gatekeepers, it reminds me exactly why I play roller derby. They are one of the most talented, put-together organizations out there. When we play those guys, we both always step it up to a new level with some new skill or strategy developing as a result of our bouts against each other. A NYSE/St. Louis bout is really an exciting thing to be a part of!

 

If you were forced to play for another team in MRDA, who would you play for?

I have thought about what would happen if I had to move for work or some other reason, and it’s an easy decision. I could not skate for anyone but NYSE. They are my extended family. I have our team logo tattooed on my skin. Those guys are my brothers. I had to try on another MRDA team’s jersey when we were getting sized for new uniforms, and I cannot tell you how uncomfortable it felt not having NYSE across my chest.

 

In 2013, do you expect any relatively unknown teams to take MRDA by storm?

I am really excited to see what develops from the international teams this season. With Canada and the UK in the mix, I’m sure we are going to see a lot of new skills and strategies. It reminds me of when the NHL began having an influx of European skaters in the early ‘90s. Up to this point, the sport contained only American and Canadian skaters, and it was always played a certain way. Suddenly, skaters from other countries entered the NHL and brought with them an entirely new skill set and attitude towards how the game should be played, which in turn revolutionized almost every aspect of the game.  I see the addition of international men’s teams as a great opportunity for yet another evolution of our continuously evolving sport.

 

The Shock Exchange ruled the Men’s Derby Coalition (the precursor to MRDA). And now, unlike any of the other original four teams, the NYSE remains among the most competitive teams in MRDA. This is all despite losing some of their biggest names after Championships in 2011. How has the Shock Exchange managed to stay relevant?

We have never been known as the team with the most talented jam skaters. We don’t have any speed skating medals hanging up on the wall, but we have always relied on our teamwork and knowledge of the game to set us apart and keep us on top. We have never been a team with one star who carries us on their shoulders all season. We are a group of skaters who are able to work together and take great pride in our ability to play as a team.

 

The NYSE is the elder statesman atop MRDA, and currently, some relatively young teams are making waves in the world of men’s derby. Do you think the age of the Shock Exchange, and the fact that it’s so well established, helps (or hurts) the league?

NYSE has benefited greatly from having veterans with 6+ years experience in our ranks. Those experienced skaters are the ones molding our new skaters, who will inherit the team and be tasked with leading it someday. Who better to learn from than a teammate with over 20 career wins and multiple championships on his résumé?

Ace of Skates demonstrates he can stop jammers no matter what direction he is facing. Photo by Mr. McWheely aka Bob Dunnell.

What’s your fondest memory of the 2012 MRDA season?

My favorite memory of the 2012 season has to be our come-from-behind victory over Magic City to capture 3rd Place at Championships. The bout seemed to start in fast-forward: everything was happening so quickly. Before we knew it, we were facing a 50+-point deficit. In true NYSE fashion, we dug deep as a team, worked through injuries, and chipped away at the Misfits lead until we took control and finished the bout with the final score in our favor. It really felt like the team earned the win, and I can assure you that my bronze “Gateway to the Best” medal is one of my most cherished possessions.

 

What should we expect to see from Ace of Skates and the Shock Exchange in 2013?

You’re just going to have to wait and see!

 

You are a standout among the skaters who have encountered your play, but in the world of MRDA, you’ve generally flown under the radar. I’m sure playing with Jonathan R and Abe Drinkin’ helps keep the spotlight away. Do you like your role on the team?

One of the nice things about skating with so many great players is that I am left alone by other teams to do my thing while they concentrate on more of our big-name skaters. I really enjoy being able to cause problems for our opponents while they focus their manpower on some of NYSEs more notable names. That said, as I mentioned before, with NYSE, teamwork reigns.

 

What kind of skate setup do you wear? Are there any specific gear or sponsors you want to plug? 

Currently, I am a member of Radar Labs. We are a group of skaters selected by Radar Wheels to help evaluate, test, and develop new products for our sport. Radar Labs excites me a lot. I see the potential to develop the next big evolution in derby equipment as a result of our hard work. I also spend many of my weekends working at Five Stride Skate Shop in Brooklyn, NY. There really is no better way to learn about new gear and find the perfect set up than by learning from shop owners Gotham’s OMG WTF and Bonnie Thunders.  As far as my current skates, I currently use the following:

 

Boots: Atom Q-6 and Antik AR-1’s

Plates: Labeda Pro-Lines

Wheels: Atom Juke 2.0/Radar Bullets

Bearings: Bones Super 6 Swiss

Toe Stops: Gumballs