BY Dollita Okine, 10:00am June 20, 2024,

After being 1st Black woman to play professional ice hockey, Bolden is still breaking barriers nearly a decade later

When it comes to hockey, Blake Bolden has made notable breakthroughs. Photo Credit: Instagram, Blake Bolden

When it comes to hockey, Blake Bolden has made notable breakthroughs. The 33-year-old became the first Black woman to play in the now-defunct National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) in 2015, earning her the moniker “Jackie Robinson of Women’s Hockey.” The Los Angeles Kings, a professional ice hockey team, hired her as their first Black woman scout in 2020, making her the first Black scout in NHL history.

Bolden opened the door for other Black athletes in hockey, after beginning her career at the age of six. Even though she believed it was her destiny, she told People that she always found it “challenging” to find her place in the sport while retaining her identity as a woman of color.

The Ohio native said that she has since grown accustomed to being different, having been the only Black person in her high school for four years. Even her mother, who raised Bolden alone while working three jobs, forewarned her that the sport might be isolating.

Nonetheless, the trailblazer remained resolute, not allowing negative criticism to dampen her drive. She also soothed herself by believing she was an exceptional player. She credits her accomplishments to coaches who supported her regardless of her skin color.

Bolden told the publication that she has always valued helping Black people get more involved in the sport.

She said, “I just knew that playing hockey was something that gave me so much purpose. Whenever I would see a Black girl or a Black kid or someone of color coming up to me, and sometimes they would tell me I was the reason why they started playing hockey is because they didn’t see anyone that looked like them — that is like the biggest sign of gratification, of purpose, that you could ever get.”

“It’s almost bigger than just playing and putting your rubber puck in the net. So I felt like that was my reason for being on this planet.”

After high school, she went to Boston College, where she had some of her fondest memories as a “high recruit” who “could have gone to any college” but picked that one.

She expressed, “I wanted to help build their program. I went there and we helped get that team to the final four, three years in a row, and then the program just exploded with success upon me graduating.”

The legendary hockey player went on to win the WNHL’s Isobel Cup, which she cited as one of her finest achievements, among other titles.

Bolden also appeared in the documentary Black Ice, which was created by celebrities such as LeBron James, Drake, and Maverick Carter. She remarked that her involvement in the movie provides viewers with little-known facts about the hockey world.

She noted that the other athletes in the film served as additional inspiration for her to participate: “I felt like I needed to be a part of it, to be able to be in that group, and especially alongside Willie O’Ree as one of the first people of color to play in the NHL, and me being the first woman of color to play professional women’s ice hockey.”

Bolden also runs a mentoring program called “Be True, Be You, Be Bold.” She clarified that although she didn’t have any Black women hockey players as a role model growing up, players now have her and other “role models” to support them in their careers.

Becoming an ESPN reporter and analyst in 2023, Bolden also continued to grow her hockey image as an NHL in-game reporter for the first time. She has also been ensuring that young people from underrepresented groups have access to and exposure to the sport of hockey.

It is therefore not surprising that Bolden and Kendal Troutman partnered to provide youth services through the Kings Care Foundation and Troutman’s organization, “24 Degrees of Color.” 

The goal of 24 Degrees of Color is to increase the diversity of ice hockey and skating in Los Angeles County by increasing accessibility to these sports, guaranteeing that a diverse range of people attend the rink, introducing youth to recreational ice hockey, and providing resources for those who wish to compete competitively.

Over 75 young athletes of color from Detroit, Los Angeles, and Cleveland have so far benefited from the pair’s assistance after gathering in the Motor City last month for a weekend full of scrimmages, sports clinics, community building, and cultural exchange, as reported by Essence.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: June 20, 2024

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