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Blake Bolden Shares her Experience Playing in Switzerland

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I remember speaking with Jaclyn Hawkins in 2016 about playing overseas. After doing some research, I fell in love with Hockey Club Lugano Ladies Team—a beautiful town in southern Switzerland in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino. I mean seriously, just Google image search Lugano, Switzerland and your mouth will drop. That’s exactly what mine did when Mr. Pax picked me up in a fresh Mercedes at the Milan airport ready to take me to my new home for the next seven months. The hour-long drive was spectacular. I was wide-awake even though I had just been traveling for twenty hours. My excitement was overwhelming. The beginning of the Swiss Alps was so beautiful I found my face glued to the car window, ‘oohing and awing’ about everything we passed. 

 

I arrived at the rink to drop of my equipment and take a tour of the facility. It was well kept with a lot of black and gold representing Lugano’s colors. Little did I know that Lugano wasn’t just a team for the Swiss A league, it was a funnel program for children from ages 2 to 20-something. Babies carrying sticks and rolling hockey bags and mothers following quickly behind them were scattered all around the building.

 

My apartment was just a stone’s throw away from the rink, which eventually made my daily commute extremely easy. There, my two roommates, Laura and Steph, welcomed me graciously. After the excitement went down, my body needed one thing…sleep.

 

Fast forward to today: it’s been about four months and a couple of weeks. After a month or so I’d gotten the hang of this Italian thing. I’d been studying and my teammates are always willing to slow down or just speak English. I prefer the Italian. I wanted to immerse myself completely in the culture. The girls are great, all different ages, some in high school, most working and still playing for fun. At first, I was afraid of what to expect. I didn’t know how I would fit on the team and it was extremely nerve wracking. I’ve been lucky to make some amazing friends that really went out of their way to make me feel comfortable and welcome. I’ve found my niche and confidence that I think I was searching for.

 

We are currently in second place in the league behind Zurich, who has a powerhouse roster with a handful of Sochi Bronze medalist Olympians from the Swiss National Team. I laugh because I now know what it feels like to play a team that seems unbeatable. Having played on the Boston Pride for the last two seasons, I wasn’t privy to losing. I get extremely excited when it is time to play them. It takes me back to my college days getting amped up to play in the battle of Commonweatlth Ave., BC vs. BU.  

 

It definitely took me a while to find my role. Was I to be the stay at home D that I had been told to be for the last couple of years, or will I have the freedom to play creatively? We’ve had 10 games; so far I have recorded 8 goals and 7 assists for 15 points. I am happy with the outcome thus far and hope to continue to help my team, especially when it counts in the final against Zurich.

 

Although I have come here to play hockey, I’ve found that it is not what is most important. For me, I wanted to put myself out of my comfort zone. That is exactly what I did. You have to be a determined and a strong individual to place yourself in an uncertain environment. The hardest thing I’ve been faced with is being alone. Most of the day, I am trying to plan activities so I am not home on a Netflix binge. Yes I have practice, team lifts, and other responsibilities, but that only takes up so much of the day. Here, I am really learning about myself. Being alone with my thoughts and making myself my best friend. There is no other foreign player here with me, and friends that I’ve made are my teammates that are in school or at work. When I am not around them, I try to fill up my schedule as much as possible—go for a hike in the mountains, explore a street market, read a book at a park. Luckily it’s an Olympic year and I have had ample time to travel. So far I have been to Paris, Rome, Verona, Venice, Zermatt and other amazingly beautiful places I would have never seen if it weren’t for my decision to play overseas. I am so grateful for this opportunity of a lifetime and I am so happy I did it! Only two and a half more months to go and I’m sure the time will fly by!

 

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