Trailblazer Blake Bolden

These women were incredible hockey players. 

Blake Bolden is a professional women’s hockey player who became the 1st black player in the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL). She has won championships in the NWHL with the Boston Pride. She also won with the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (Boston Blades). She currently plays for the Buffalo Beauts of the NWHL. Bolden was a player for four seasons at Boston College. She was captain of the team in 2012-2013.

The defenseman had 13 points (one goal, 12 assists) during the regular season for the Beauts, who were sadly defeated by the Minnesota Whitecaps in the Isobel Cup Final. 

How It All Started

Bolden became acquainted with hockey by a white man her mom dated when she was younger who had a somewhat different take. He liked that she was the only black girl. Her father told her to forget about the boys. Do what she wanted to do. 

Growing up, she didn’t see folks who looked like her playing hockey. It never mattered to her. She’s in it for the love of the game. She might have had a bit more to prove than others due to her race and gender. She believed if she worked hard and let her talent shine through, she would get the respect of her teammates and the folks around her, regardless.

Looking back, she feels the voice in her head may have said, “this game isn’t for folks that look like you.” However, that line of thinking was not part of who she was. Bolden has been successful throughout her development because of her positivity. She’s a hockey player as much as anyone else on the ice is. This is a game for anyone, and talent is everywhere and within everybody. She hopes her journey helps encourage other young girls, and young women of color, to get involved in hockey and show the world what they can accomplish.

Trailblazer: Kaliya Johnson

 

The Arizona-raised, California-born Johnson was one of the more fascinating hockey stories of the 2014-15 hockey season. Before the season, she learned that she had a Chiari malformation, a rare structural condition of the spinal cord and brain that contributes to a tinier than normal space for the brain, pushing it downward.

Mainly, her brain was sitting under the base of her skull. It was something she was born with. She had symptoms all her life, small things such as migraines and pressure headaches. She thought they were a normal part of her life. 

Johnson had surgery in September 2015 that she stated opened up some space and eliminated the first vertebrae in her neck so there was more room to breathe.

The NWHL

As hyped as Johnson was about joining the NWHL, Blake Bolden, a Black defenseman for the league champion Boston Pride and a former teammate of Johnson’s at BC, was hyped about the possibility of the two being reunited in Boston.

Johnson said it was great having her by her side and Bolden teaching her all she knows. She felt that it would have been an added bonus for her playing in the NWHL with Bolden. Sadly, it didn’t work out that way.  But Bolden is a solid competitor, and she’s excited about playing against her because she’s a good player.

Kaliya Johnson ended up signing as a free agent with the Connecticut Whale of the NWHL.

The NWHL has four teams – the Whale, the Pride, the New York Riveters, and the Buffalo Beauts. Players are paid and the teams stick to a salary cap that was somewhere around $270,000 in its original season.

The salaries aren’t anything to live on. Therefore, players have to get regular employment to supplement their incomes. Still, most, like Kaliya Johnson, are proud to be called a professional hockey player.