Last week, I caught up with HC Lugano defender (winger & center, more on that below) Blake Bolden just before a belated birthday trip. While playing her first season abroad, Bolden helped Lugano return to the championship series against the ZSC Lions. Lugano took the Lions to three games, but ultimately fell to 5-1.
Bolden has remained busy since returning to the states, which included meeting Kim Davis, the NHL Executive VP of Social Impact, Growth Initiatives & Legislative Affairs. Kim Davis at a networking event in Washington, D.C. We chat about Davis’ new role, and the personal and professional attributes that will make her successful.
We also chat about the role of the defender in hockey, one that can go overlooked on a stats sheet. Finally, we wrap by talking about what is next for Blake: Teaser, she’s not quite done playing yet!
You can catch Bolden this summer at her Blake Bolden Athletics camps in San Diego & Cleveland. She may also return to Boston for a spell; stay tuned!
Below is my interview with Blake from the April 27th edition of The IX Newsletter. Read the entire edition here, including my thoughts on the USWNT (or anyone) visiting The White House.
Erica L. Ayala: You played your first season in Switzerland. What are the biggest takeaways from your season abroad?
Blake Bolden: I’m kind of just coming down from it and I don’t think I’ve actually had time to fully process everything that I was doing while I was overseas and now that I’m home I’m just like, ‘yes I’m home.’
There were so many great lessons. I think the biggest takeaway is to be open-minded and flexible and to stay level-headed. It was really amazing to be overseas and then sometimes it was really sad because I miss my family and my friends. And that was one of the biggest challenges for me was to just be open-minded and flexible.
ELA: I saw that you were in D.C. for a little bit speaking at a Jack & Jill event. I’m interested to hear if you were able to catch up with Kim Davis. She’s got that new role with the NHL, what are your thoughts about that league trying to embrace diversity with a black woman who’s new to the sport at the helm?
BB: Well, I can tell you Kim Davis is a rock star. She is so cool.
I was just really excited meet her. She seemed very intimidating … like wow, this woman she’s got a great background and she’s inviting me to this event. I wanted to get to know her because I want to know what she was about and what she wanted to do and she just impressed me in so many different ways.
She’s this woman who is strong, and powerful, and beautiful, and also like doesn’t take any crap and has a clear direction to where she wants to go, especially with diversifying the sport of ice hockey.
She’s really passionate about it and [was] asking me questions about my experiences. She’s she’s not afraid to learn and soak things up. So I mean I’m really happy that I got a chance to meet with her. She was very excited to meet me which made me feel really happy. And, we’ve been in contact and I’m sure we’ll do more things like speaking on panels and things like the Jack and Jill [event] in the future. So I can’t wait for that.
ELA: I get the sense from many players that have played in North America that they see value in their being one league. From your experiences now in both the CWHL, NWHL and abroad, what are those next steps that will get the sport closer to having one strong league that is able to be fully resourced and funded in a way that makes things easier for players committing to play in said league?
BB: Yeah, I mean that’s a very loaded question … playing in all of the three leagues, obviously, I saw many different things. Each individual player that is playing has there has their you know wants out of what they’re doing each league. So you know I’m just not so sure.
Me personally, I think [one league] would be an amazing feat. But I really just don’t know the logistics behind it and what it would take. I know as a player it would be nice to have more teams to choose to play on and have it a little bit more professional in a way that you know we had enough money to be traded and to have a legitimate draft and not just have it be like the NFL, like the NBA. [Owners] have our rights as players and we have our players association and we move forward together build the league that we all think that we want.
I don’t know what the what the name for it would be but you know I’m not a business person in that mindset where I can talk about what needs to be done or how it can be done. Unfortunately, I don’t know [laughs].
ELA: It seems so hard to quantify how successful a defender is individual of her team. hockey obviously it’s a team sport but there are other teammates that defenders have where their individual stats can give you a sense of how they perform. At least for me, it doesn’t seem that a defender has a true stat. Do you agree? Is there something that you wish could quantify in what you do as a defender and how you contribute to your team?
BB: You know I think that is like an awesome question. It just makes you think you know you’re like, ‘Yeah I don’t get credit for that. Yeah, I think that’s the beauty of hockey right.
Playing overseas, I played center, I played winger, I was a defender. I played every position but goaltender. I got to see what it’s like to be in a different player’s shoes and have a different perspective. But playing defense is just such an amazing position to me … I feel like we control the game. We’re like the quarterback. That’s really what makes hockey beautiful and all sports amazing is that everybody has their certain thing that they bring to the table. Everybody can’t be a gold score and light up the red light and get the accolades and everything for it. But I think that’s what we get when you sign up to be a defenseman that you’re like I’m an unsung hero and I’m ok with it.
ELA: Last question that I have is, what’s next for you, on and off the ice?
BB: I honestly I’m just trying to build my brand. I mean I am just so excited to be home. Blake Bolden Athletics is kicking off with some dope camps this summer in Cleveland where I grew up, in San Diego, potentially in Boston, I’m just all over the placeI’m pumped. It’s busy. It’s crazy. But, that’s what you live for.
I have my hands in a lot of different projects so hopefully I’ll be hanging out with Kim Davis and hopefully we’re going to let it be everywhere and we’ll just see where it takes me.
As far as hockey is concerned, Lugano is amazing. I was super disappointed that we didn’t come out with the win. Zurich had some formidable players on their team that I couldn’t really penetrate through completely. I had [a lot of] points this year which was awesome for me. I’m trying to negotiate a situation where I can come back for the playoffs and stay home for a little bit … we’ll see if that actually happens.
But seven months is a crazy long time. I could probably do it about 22 or 23. But, I’ve got to work on me and start building [my business]; that’s what I want.