When Boston Pride defenseman Blake Bolden is on the ice, her primary responsibility is to stop the opposing team from scoring.
The former Boston College star and team captain was one of the best NCAA players during her tenure with the Eagles from 2009-2010 through 2012-2013. In December of 2010, she was invited to try out for the United States National Women's ice hockey team.
Off the ice, her role is a bit different. Trailblazer and ambassador comes to mind.
“The NHL and NWHL [National Women’s Hockey League] are doing an amazing job promoting the sport of ice hockey,” Bolden said. “There are wonderful programs and organizations like the [Ed]Hockey Foundation in Philadelphia that serve children who otherwise might never have the opportunity to play. That is something I am truly passionate about and hope to contribute to this cause in the future!"
(Photo Credit: nwhl.com)
Not only is Bolden one of the first African-American woman to hit the ice for the NWHL, she is also one of the players selected to spread the word about an entire sport’s growth.
“Yes, I am the first, and hopefully not the last! Honestly, I didn't even think about it in that way until someone told me,” Bolden said. “It makes me so happy when girls, especially African- American girls, actually want to talk to me. I didn't realize I was a role model until people were asking me questions like this. I can only hope that I do those who are watching me a good service by being the best person I can be on and off the ice.”
More Pride fans with their Pride swag! pic.twitter.com/FhvIVsMKFZ— Boston Pride (@TheBostonPride) January 6, 2016
The few Black people playing pro hockey today are from Canada. Bolden’ s love for the game organically grew during her childhood in Cleveland, Ohio.
“I was 7 when I started playing hockey,” said Bolden. “My mother was a single parent up until that point. She met a wonderful man that loved ice hockey and worked part time for Cleveland's IHL team, the Cleveland Lumberjacks. I would get all-access passes to the games and I'd get to meet the players. As a kid that was the coolest thing. One day I turned to my mom's boyfriend, who is now my father, and said ‘I want to play hockey.’”
“I remember being the only girl and my dad was so nervous for me,” Bolden continued. “The coach came into my all-girls locker room before the tryouts, looked me right in the eye and said ‘Don't make my job easy.’ From that point on, all I wanted to do was be the best.”
As Bolden’s presence in and around the rink became known, the ugly side of youth sports and hockey fandom started to rear its ugly head.
“Unfortunately, I ran into some negative comments as a kid,” she said. “Not only was I a girl, I was the ONLY girl, that so happened to be black. My parents suffered from much more ignorant comments. I was a ki,d so that stuff never really bothered me. I just wanted to play.”
“For me at least, I did not have someone that looked like me doing what I was doing,” she said.” I admire the Willie O'ree's, Wayne Simmonds’, PK Subban’s, Jarome Iginla’s, etc. I only hope that I can be a role model in hockey, as they were to me.” As a professional player in the NWHL pays its players, Bolden gets paid to do what she loves most.
“I can't tell you how amazing it feels because there are no words,” she said. “This is such a milestone for women's hockey and women's sports in general. People care. It feels so great because if only people knew how much time and effort we put into preparing, training, and playing the sport, they would think it's ludicrous that we didn't get paid. But now, we do!” Bolden knows above anything that there’s a young girl out there who may not have been interested hockey, but now they may give it a shot based on her presence.
“I would tell her that anything is possible,” Bolden said. “I would tell her to not let anyone steer her away from her goals and aspirations. Always have confidence in yourself and most importantly, have fun!”