Industry Profile: A.J. Boldan, PAC-8 Hockey
Arizona Rubber: What’s your background in hockey, and how did you get to where you are today?
A.J. Boldan: I went through the youth program in my hometown in Minnesota and graduated from John Marshall High. I came out here to University of Utah, and didn’t play until I was in graduate school in 2007. My second year with the program, they were struggling with leadership and some of the guys came to me, and I’ve been the general manager since then. The program had struggled, but in 2009, we made some coaching changes, which brought better players, and it snowballed to what the program has become today. In 2011, Utah joined the PAC-8 and I was elected to my current position in 2014.
AZR: How would you describe your duties and responsibilities with the PAC-8?
AB: I think it’s all about vision and direction. Our program at Utah has been successful because we’ve been actively recruiting, which takes a lot of time and effort. What I’ve learned through my experiences at Utah, I have applied with the PAC-8, which is where the idea for our recruiting camp came from.
AZR: Tell us about your recruiting camp and the idea behind it.
AB: The camp is June 15-18 in South Lake Tahoe, Calif. and is designed for players entering their final year of high school to be matched with ACHA Division 1 and 2 programs. Players can register at http://pac8hockey.com/pac-8-announces-2016-college-recruiting-camp/. We want teams to plan ahead as much as possible, and we think this is a great way to let them do that. Once we’re able to do this for a few years, the talent is going to get better, teams are going to be better, and the league is going to be better. My ultimate goal is to have the PAC-8 evolve into the PAC-12 NCAA hockey conference, which could be the best hockey conference in the country. Combined with the reach and quality of the PAC-12 television network, these top-notch academics programs would become the next hotbed of college hockey.
AZR: What are you expecting for a turnout at this year’s recruiting camp?
AB: Last year, we had about 30 kids, and a lot of them were local, but we considered it a great success. We are expecting 96 high school athletes this June. After last year’s camp, we spent several days improving the format of the camp and how we can really get kids interested in college hockey if they don’t know that the American Collegiate Hockey Association exists. We know that in a lot of parts of the country, college hockey is the NCAA. But the ACHA offers a wonderful college hockey experience, and depending on the program, it is in some ways superior and more enjoyable.
AZR: Where do you see the PAC-8 fitting into the world of college hockey?
AB: Hockey is growing in the West, and the PAC-8 has a huge opportunity to weave the conference into the consciousness of people in California, Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, Utah and Washington. The colleges in our league offer great opportunities to be successful on and off the ice. We want every one of our programs to be competing for recruits for NCAA Division III teams. We’re trying to prove to these kids that there are very few difference in the quality of the programs and they will get more playing time with a better academic value.
– Compiled by Greg Ball