Subtract the final two letters from Blake Bolden’s last name and you’ve summed up the type of move she’s made this hockey season.
Bolden has left what she’s known for more than eight years – history-making stardom in the National Women’s Hockey League, the Canadian Women’s Hockey League and Boston College – to start over in a different league and different country.
The first African-American player in the NWHL and CWHL is patrolling the blue line this season as a defenseman for HC Lugano, a professional women’s team in southern Switzerland.
“I just wanted a fresh start, something I’ve never done before, a new experience,” Bolden told me weeks before she boarded a Swissair flight from Boston to her new hockey season home. “I’ve played in every league I could possible play in North America. I didn’t think it was time for me to quit and I really just wanted to put myself out of my comfort zone and experience new things and be able to travel in a basically different environment.”
Bolden discusses her move, the decision behind it, and her hockey future in the latest Color of Hockey podcast.
She stresses that her desire to have an international hockey experience was the main factor in her packing her stick bag and heading off to Switzerland.
But Bolden added that the feeling that she wasn’t given due consideration by USA Hockey for a spot on the 2018 U.S. women’s Olympic hockey team that will compete in South Korea in February made her decision easier.
Bolden figured she had the hockey pedigree to at least earn look. She won a CWHL championship with the Boston Blades in 2014-15 and was a league all-star. She hoisted the NWHL championship trophy in 2015-16 and earned all-star honors with Boston Pride.
She captained Boston College’s women’s team 2012-13, and skated on gold medal-winning U.S. national teams at the International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s Under-18 World championships in 2007-08 and 2008-09.
An April 2017 Boston Globe piece questioned why Bolden wasn’t in the mix for the Winter Olympics, quoting former teammates and coaches who said she deserved a shot at a roster spot.
The story added that Bolden’s “supporters say Team USA not only has wronged Bolden but has squandered an opportunity to broaden its appeal to girls of color, who are chronically underrepresented in the game.”
Bolden’s says she was cut from the U.S. national team program about three years ago and doesn’t know why.
“I’ve spent a lot of time, I guess, coping with that,” she told me. “Not being kicked off, but cut from the team, it’s been hard. I can’t imagine all of the girls who have been cut from the national team and have gotten their dreams kind of ripped out from underneath them.
“It takes a really long time to believe in yourself again, to find that confidence after someone said, basically, you’re not good enough when you really know that you are,” Bolden added.
A USA Hockey official told me last week that Bolden was looked at for the 2018 Olympic team but declined to comment further on player personnel matters.
In April, Rob Koch, a USA Hockey spokesman, told the Boston Globe in April that “As part of the National Women’s Hockey League, Blake has been heavily scouted along with other potential U.S. players and therefore will continue to receive the appropriate consideration.”
With no Olympics invite in sight, Bolden said that embarking on a new hockey adventure in Switzerland is helping her look forward, not back.
“I don’t really think about the past, ‘Well, I didn’t make the Olympic team, poor me.’ That’s not really my personality,” she told me. “I’m going to make my own path. That’s what I’ve been doing since I was seven years old and I picked up a hockey stick. I’m going to make my own path, blaze my own trail. That’s what Blake Bolden does best.”
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