Check the scoreboard; Black women are winning!
Meet Blake Bolden, the first and only Black female scout in the National Hockey League.
According to Yahoo! Sports, Bolden recently made her transition to the league’s business side. She is making history as the second woman and first Black women scout in the NHL. The league has recently been pushing for more diversity, with Kim Davis, executive vice president for social impact, growth initiatives and legislative affairs at the NHL, leading the charge. A former defender for the Boston Pride of the NWHL, Bolden was an accomplished hockey player before securing a deal with the Los Angeles Kings as an NHL scout back in January.
“I’d never thought about scouting. I was at the Kings facility because I was a special guest for Black Girl Hockey Club, and the Kings wanted to talk to me about women’s hockey, and I think [they] wanted someone for the role of an AHL scout, and [they] asked if I was interested,” Bolden told Yahoo!Sports of the chance encounter.
After an extensive interview process, the 29-year-old started scouting, beginning with local AHL games. She focused on tracking potential prospects over the course of an entire season. However, the pandemic put a pause on everything, causing Bolden to readjust and re-imagining her new role as she shifted to scouting NHL games.
“I’ve never scouted NHL teams yet. It’s quite different. We’re looking at players from Tampa Bay and Dallas and Vegas and seeing how talented everyone is. For me, it’s been a lot of learning, just like every scouting experience. How they see a play in comparison to what I’m seeing, and it’s all pretty exciting,” Bolden said.
While nobody could have anticipated sports in a bubble, Bolden said it’s a shift but not unheard of, citing how many scouts have done their job without being on location. While she misses the excitement of live-action sports, she said there are advantages, like being able to rewind a play and hone in on particular skills, something you wouldn’t be able to do face-to-face. While she brings a unique approach to scouting as a former player, Bolden said she’s still very impressed by many of the prospects and often imagines what’s going through their mind while they’re out there on the ice.
“It’s really fun to play that game with yourself. These guys are so skilled and can do things I couldn’t dream of doing, taking a wrist shot and it going 200 feet down the ice. I like to look at skating, are they agile, can they use their edges really well, are they knocked off the puck, how do they change directions? I’m a pretty good skater, so I think about that,” she told reporters.
Bolden hopes she can soon get back to the ice and begin scouting in person but says she’s found joy in her new role. She hopes to continue perfecting the skills she’s gaining from her couch and take them with her when it’s time to get back out there.
“It’s a different energy watching from home. Sometimes you feel like you’re a spectator relaxing at home and realize, ‘I have to scout these players.’ It’s an adjustment, different from going to a game, feeling the energy,” Bolden said. “This particular NHL playoffs are different from anything; there’s no factors for home and away players. You kind of don’t even notice; everyone is still playing like it’s playoff hockey.”
Photo Courtesy of NHL