The Female Field: LA Kings scout Blake Bolden becomes first woman to have signature stick

Sports

Blake Bolden has broken the color barrier and gender barrier once again. This time she is the first woman to ever have her own signature stick.

Bolden is the first Black player to be drafted to the Canadian Women’s Hockey League and the first Black player to play in the National Women’s Hockey League. She is now on the Los Angeles Kings’ scouting staff and is a Verbero Hockey athlete.

Bolden first met the owner of Verbero Hockey, Andy Sutton, at an early Saturday morning pick-up game in summer 2020, and he was impressed with her skill. From there, they started brainstorming projects. The stick was always one of their ideas.

“Let’s see what we can do. It was kind of in our minds in the very beginning, but it took a little bit of time and creation to put it into fruition,” Bolden said.

It is the Verbero Blake Bolden Signature Series Mercury V350 Stick. Her stick series with the company ranges in price from $119.99 for youth to $229.99 for seniors. Pre-orders were available in December 2020 and were scheduled to be shipped on April 15.

“Never would I have ever imagined that I’d have my own stick with my own brand and my own swag, and it’s just such an honor and a privilege and I just hope that it just gives more women, more diversity to our sport,” Bolden said.

Her stick is one of the lightest on the market, if not the lightest, at 350 grams. Bolden said player’s shots will be improved just by playing with a lighter stick.

“I think with that little tweak, your shot will just come right off the stick very easily,” Bolden said.

It seems fitting that she has her own stick. She holds the title of hardest shot in the NWHL. Bolden earned it during the 2019 NWHL All-Star Skills Competition with an 80 mph slapshot.

She joined the scouting staff for the Los Angeles Kings in January 2020. She is the first Black woman to ever scout in the NHL and the secod woman behind Cami Grenato to ever scout in the league.

Bolden just happened to meet former NHL player and current president of the LA Kings Luc Robitaille at a Black Girl Hockey Club event at the STAPLES Center. She was there as an “avid supporter” of the group. There, Robitaille asked if Bolden had ever thought about being a scout and she said no, but the conversation was furthered, and she was in.

“From there we just talked about opening doors for me coming into the LA Kings organization and as you can see it’s been awesome,” Bolden said.

She still considers herself a rookie scout, but she was a part of a historic draft pick by the Kings in the October 2020 draft when they selected Quinton Byfield second overall. He is the highest-drafted Black player in NHL history.

“I was just amazed, and then to feel the talent and know the talent that’s coming up with our Ontario Reign prospects, I’m just really excited for the future of the LA Kings,” Bolden said.

“I was just amazed, and then to feel the talent and know the talent that’s coming up with our Ontario Reign prospects, I’m just really excited for the future of the LA Kings,” Bolden said.

She has been one of the only Black people in her ice rinks growing up and now Bolden is leading the way for many women of color in hockey. She said the Black community can hold the April 20, 2021, guilty verdict of Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd “in a positive light and the only thing that we can do is continue to move forward and protect those that are unprotected.”

Floyd was killed on May 25, 2020, and the LA Kings Inclusion Initiative was launched in July. Bolden plays a large role in guiding and influencing it.

The program is “designed to contribute to building equity in sports and within the front office, while helping to eradicate racism in and around the world of hockey,” the LA Kings said.

The LA Kings Inclusion Initiative was a response to work in conjunction with The Alliance which they are a part of. The Alliance is made up of all 11 professional sports in LA to “advocate for social justice, address disparities and take actions to help end racial inequality.”

“Right now we’re revamping our youth hockey structure because the things that I’ve seen just as a young Black girl playing ice hockey growing up, we just want that to be something that’s welcoming for youth,” Bolden said.

She said she wants all kids to be able to have access to and become fans of ice hockey.

Bolden grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and participated in the first U18 World Championship for team USA. Her team won Gold in 2008 and 2009. She then went to Boston College, where they made three Frozen Four appearances during her time there from 2009 to 2013. Upon graduation, she joined the Boston Blades of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. She helped her team win the Clarkson Cup in 2015. The league was discontinued in May 2019.

She joined the Boston Pride of the National Women’s Hockey League in 2016 and helped them win the inaugural Isobel Cup. She played two seasons in the NWHL and made two All-Star appearances. She spent a brief stint in Switzerland in 2018 with HC Lugano.

Bolden came back to the NWHL and played for the Buffalo Beauts. In 2019 she was awarded Defensive Player of the Year.

Most recently Bolden participated in the Professional Women’s Hockey Player’s Association (PWHPA) and was going on tours with them in 2020, but due to the pandemic, everything was paused. At that same time, she was beginning to work full-time with the LA Kings.

“Right now, I’m in a bit of a pickle,” Bolden said. “I think as women collectively athletics needs to grow. We’re trying to create a sustainable league. I’ve got my WNBA hoodie on. The PWHPA wants to provide that for women and ice hockey players.”

She said she is unsure what is going to happen in her playing career moving forward.

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