Unicorn Invasion!

Team Unicorn LogoLast Saturday night, historic Dee Stadium in Houghton and Keweenaw Roller Derby played host to a magical herd of unicorns. Team Unicorn from Madison Roller Derby, to be exact.

The action got underway at 6:00, and the Unicorns jumped into an early lead that they held on to for almost the entire bout. It was a physical and hard-hitting game; one of the most physical that we’ve experienced. Despite this, penalties were relatively low for the Keweenaw Rollers, something that is a reflection of our rigorous training regime and commitment to fair play.

The bout ended with the final score of 99 for Keweenaw, 190 for Team Unicorn. In spite of taking a loss, KRD skated well, hard, and played clean.

One of the things that attracts many to roller derby is that there’s room for all body types and athletic abilities on the track. Team Unicorn demonstrates this in practice as they had a roster on Saturday made up of skaters of a variety body types, and our jammers got some valuable experience tangling with bigger, solid blockers than those currently on KRD’s roster.

Those who were there can confirm that the energy was electric last Saturday. Hopefully that vibe is a portent of things to come for the 2019 season and will only continue as KRD skates both at the Dee and on the road.


MVP Jammer: Afro Disiac

MVP Blocker: I Love Skatin’

Kick-Ass Communicator Award: Rowena Ragin’Claw

Fierce Feet Award: Smushella DeVil

Keweenaw Takes a Win in Beloit

A very quick derby primer for the brand new fans: Derby bouts are played on a flat oval track in rounds called jams. Each jam, both teams field a jammer and four blockers. The first jammer to push, dodge, or jump their way through the pack of blockers is awarded “Lead” status and has the ability to strategically call off the jam. Some jams, the jammers go round and round to rack up points, while in others they grab four points and call it off before the opposing jammer gets any. Blockers impede the jammers by forming human walls and (sometimes) knocking jammers right off their skates!


While Keweenaw Roller Derby’s home season is going to kick off in just two short days, the team has already had the opportunity to flex those derby muscles on the road once this year. On April 27, we road-tripped our way down to Southern Wisconsin for a hard-hitting bout against the Beloit Bombshells. KRD took home a win with a final score of 161-178.


Beloit’s jammers proved formidable, gaining lead in just over half the jams. However, KRD spent the winter drilling offensive strategies and it absolutely showed; even when our jammers didn’t snag the lead position, we got them out of the pack and into position to force a call-off fast. In several jams, our non-lead jammers snagged more points than the lead jammers. Quite a feat!


Throughout the game, KRD’s communication was excellent. Skaters who have been with us for just a season or two have really found their skates and identified their strongest positions. Our crop of new skaters are jumping in smoothly and proving invaluable in our walls. The vets continue to push the team in new, strategic directions. As both a skater and a team trainer, I continue to be impressed by the flexibility and self-awareness of KRD. Everyone left the bout full of positivity, excitement, and with a long list of new strategies to try out – exactly the attitude you hope to see in a team!


Huge shout out and thanks to the Beloit Bombshells for being amazing hosts and to all of the officials who made this game possible.


MVP Blocker: I Love Skatin’

MVP Jammer: Smushella deVil

Stellar Bench Staff: Feline Fatale, Hex Bex, and Princess Bubblebutt


Look for us this weekend at the Dee Stadium where we’ll be keeping it low, slow, and hard hitting against Madison’s Team Unicorn!


~ Rowena Ragin’Claw


2019 Season Excitement!

Who’s ready for the 2019 roller derby season in the Keweenaw?!? You’d better hold on to your hats—Keweenaw Roller Derby will be hosting four home bouts and traveling for two away matches:

Watch a Bout

All home bouts will be at Dee Stadium, Houghton. Doors open at 5pm; the bout begins at 6pm. Tickets are available at the door or from your favorite KRD member, and are only $5 for teens and adults—kids 10 and under are free! There will be food courtesy of Suomi and drinks available, along with graceful half time entertainment provided by 47 North Bellydance.

We’re only a month out from the season opener, so be sure to mark your calendar and hustle on over to historic Dee Stadium to witness the wheeled spectacle that is Keweenaw Roller Derby!

Join Us!

The Keweenaw Roller Girls are entering recruitment season! We hope that if you have an interest in roller derby (skater or ref) you’ll come check out the activities we’re hosting over the next few weeks! We encourage folks with no experience and tons of experience to join us.

Please direct questions to info@keweenawrollerderby.com OR our Facebook page

2018 Boot Camps, Aug 26 & Sept 9

We’re hosting two single day boot camps where you can give roller derby a try! We’ll have gear – skates, elbow pads, knee pads, wrist guards, and helmets – available for you to try on. Once everyone is geared up, a few veteran skaters will walk you through stops, starts, and some very basic skate skills. At the end, we’ll do a little off-skates derby and talk about what joining derby looks like. Both boot camps will be run the same, so feel free to attend just one or both!

Sunday, August 26 or Sunday, September 9
12p-3p (12-1 test gear, 1-3 skate!)
Dee Stadium, Houghton
Please wear work-out clothes and sneakers
See our facebook events for up-to-the minute info on boot camps

New Skater Program

Each year we host a 10 week new skater program to introduce both basic skating skills and the game of roller derby to folks who want to join the team or become a referee. You will need your own gear (See our gear recommendation list for an idea of what that entails. However, please don’t purchase anything until you’ve spoken to us – we don’t want you to get stuck with something that you can’t use!)

Check out our “Join the League Page” for a more in-depth overview!

The 2018 program will run from September 23-December 2. Times and location TBD (location will vary due to imminent hockey season!)


Roller Derby and the Fine Art of Sisu

Sisu: A Finnish concept and cultural construct that describes strength of will, determination, tenacity, grit, bravery and acting rationally in the face of adversity.  It’s not temporary bravery, but a sustained courage that Finns hold dear as an important component of national heritage.

There are many terms in other languages that don’t translate neatly into English: the German Fremdschämen comes to mind- a vicarious embarrassment one feels when witnessing someone making a fool of themselves in front of a crowd.  As a matter of fact, roller derby and Fremdschämen could be a whole separate and wildly entertaining article, but I digress.

The Finnish Sisu, defined above is one of these concepts.

Here, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, one will find some of the largest populations of people of Finnish ancestry outside of Finland proper.  Given the isolation during the winter months and the extreme weather, Sisu is definitely a ubiquitous and very much applicable term. As a newcomer to the area, I had never heard of anything like it; but now I find the concept intriguing and culturally fascinating.

Moving here in 2015, not only did I learn about Sisu, but I also joined the local roller derby league, the Keweenaw Roller Girls.  Starting as a brand new, older, out of shape skater, it became apparent after my first graceless time on skates that I had a lot to learn!  A healthy dose of determination, drive, and stubbornness in addition to receiving wonderful support from my league are what kept me going.  I would soon learn that tenacity combined with stubbornness is what lies at the heart of Sisu.  And boy, does it apply to participating in all aspects of roller derby.  Perhaps it’s something we all possess, but the Finns have just been clever enough to put a name to it.

For me, Sisu kept me going in the following situations:

Fresh Meat:

My debut on quad skates mentioned above, was not pretty, and I know I’m not alone.  I barely made it away from the safety of the hockey rink boards.  I think I had fun… but I frankly was too preoccupied with not dying to remember.  The following days required Sisu: muscles I didn’t even know I had were killing me! My husband kindly solidified my resolve when he said something to the effect of “maybe this sport isn’t for you”.  I had a violent attack of Sisu and vowed to not give up in spite of some muscle soreness and husband comment-making.


One aspect of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) minimum required skills test needed to be passed by all skaters in order to safely bout.  Twenty-seven laps on a regulation track in five minutes: my white whale.  It took me close to two years of skating before I finally passed this test. But for the grace of Sisu, I would have definitely packed it in and allowed it to defeat me.  No doubt about it, 27/5 is a beast, but one that (ugh I sound like my dad here) builds character and fosters Sisu in even the most capable players.

Not Being Historically a Very Skilled Athlete:

Read: generally a hot mess athletically.  The heading says it all, and I know I’m not alone in the derby community in having been picked last for more than one team growing up.  The beauty of roller derby is that there’s a role for everyone, providing they have Sisu and are willing to work hard to discover what that role may be.  I personally highly value my league’s commitment to fostering training and athleticism in skaters of all abilities.

I’m sure there are many more examples that I’m forgetting.  That’s the thing about Sisu: it isn’t necessarily something one consciously commits to exerting, it’s something that comes from deep within when we feel like giving up.  Thankfully I haven’t been very injury prone, but many fine skaters I know have been.  It’s Sisu that keeps them committing to treatment, rehab, prehab, returning, and overcoming fear of re-injury.

At the end of the day, it’s definitely easier to walk away from a challenge, but there’s no reward in that.  Exerting Sisu and playing roller derby go hand in hand- keep that in mind next time you have a particularly terrible practice, or you pull a muscle.  In my eyes, roller derby is for everyone, especially those lucky folks like us who now know the power of Sisu.

TJF 5/18/18