Editor's Note: This article was written and used for the Dartmouth/Brown-Yale Game Program this past weekend at Thompson Arena.
When the Quebec Nordiques packed up and left town in May 1995, they broke countless hearts in the capital of French Canada. Gone was a young, up-and-coming team who had just posted the best record in the Eastern Conference and claimed the No. 1 seed in the lockout-shortened 1995 season.
Landing in Denver as the newly formed Colorado Avalanche, the franchise would go on to defeat the 62-win Detroit Red Wings, the best regular-season team in NHL history, in the conference final before sweeping the Florida Panthers to win the 1996 Stanley Cup.
That season changed Taylor Boldt’s life.
A native of Niwot, Colo., a suburban town north of Denver, Boldt picked up the sport in the wake of the Cup run and Colorado’s first major professional championship.
|Boldt at age 6, shortly after the team's arrival.|
“I saw the Avalanche win the Cup in ’96 and I decided I wanted to try that,” Boldt recalled. “My parents signed me up for a local rec league and I’ve loved it ever since.”
Though Boldt admits he was unable to stop his entire first season of playing, he pushed on, beginning a hockey journey that his parents were unfamiliar with.
“No one in my family played hockey, so I think they were a little overwhelmed at the beginning. They took me to ‘Play-It-Again Sports’ and got me some used equipment because they didn’t know if I would like it enough to go out and get all new stuff.
“Luckily, one of my neighbors, who would go on to be my coach, helped out and pointed us in the right direction, not only in what we needed, but also in teaching me the game.”
Moving from Colorado to Arizona during his senior year of high school to play, the soft-spoken and humble young man lived with another family. He would move again the following season, this time to the Indiana Ice of the USHL.
His play with the Ice began to garner the attention of college coaches and offers to play at the NCAA Division I level. However, when one of those coaches was from Dartmouth, Boldt knew he could call a former teammate taking up residence in Hanover at the time to get better insight.
“I called Jason Bourgea ’13 who I had played with in Indy and he told me he absolutely loved the school and it was a great place,” Boldt remarked. “I trusted him and took his word for it. Looking back it’s been a perfect fit for me and I have no regrets at all about it.
“I wanted to go to an Ivy League school. Dartmouth was the first to make an offer and I actually accepted before I had even gone on an official visit,” he continued.
Once in the Upper Valley, Boldt has made a name for himself on defense. That name, though, might not be on the top of many lists when asked to gauge the defining players in the program’s last four seasons.
However, failing to mention Boldt as one of the best Dartmouth players in his time would be a tremendous omission.
A stay-at-home, defensive-defenseman, Boldt doesn’t rely on points, flashy plays or accolades that many see as the defining characteristics of a successful player. No, Boldt is perfectly content to fly under the radar.
“I feel more comfortable with keeping things simple on the ice. My goals are always to make sure I am able to make the play and limit mistakes,” the senior stated. “I’ve never really been an offensive player.”
Rarely will Boldt be in position to join the rush, but that’s because his No. 1 priority is securing the play in his own end.
“I’m far more concerned with staying in position and not running around. I was coached that way when I was little and it seemed good enough to get me here, so there is no reason I would want to change that.”
“One of those coaches told me ‘The best defensemen are the ones you don’t ever notice on the ice because they’re always in position to make the right play’. That is something I always remember,” Boldt recalled.
With that type of mentality and maturity, Boldt has been one of the Big Green’s more trusted d-men in his three-plus seasons in Hanover. That could also be because few players have had the luxury of lineup stability that he has.
Boldt played every game of his freshman and sophomore seasons with Jim Gaudet ’12. His junior season saw him play alongside first-year player Geoff Ferguson ’16 more than two-thirds of Dartmouth’s games, while this season Boldt has lined up a majority of the time with freshman Josh Hartley ’17.
“You build a lot of trust with your defensive partner and get really comfortable. At the end of two years, Jimmy and I knew exactly where the other guy was going to be on the ice at any point,” Boldt said of his former teammate. “That kind of trust makes the game easier for any player.”
It’s not just who he plays with every night, it’s that he plays every night that makes Boldt a key player. He didn’t miss his first game until midway through his junior season. An illness this past December sidelined Boldt for a few weeks, the only time he missed multiple games in his career.
When he leaves Dartmouth, his name will rank among the program’s all-time leaders in games played, a testament to a young man who is comfortable with going unnoticed.
The relocation of an NHL team in the mid 1990s has paid major dividends for Dartmouth nearly 20 years later as it brought one of the truly great character guys in college hockey to Hanover.
By Pat Salvas