International Ice Hockey Federation

Bolgareva’s odyssey

Bolgareva’s odyssey

Record-setting Russian out for more

Published 12.01.2017 12:37 GMT+1 | Author Andrew Podnieks
Bolgareva’s odyssey
ZLIN, CZECH REPUBLIC - JANUARY 8: Russia's Polina Bolgareva #7 during preliminary round action against Canada at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women's World Championship. (Photo by Andrea Cardin/HHOF-IIHF Images)
It’s not often you can call a 17-year-old a “veteran” of international hockey.

But when you’re Polina Bolgareva and have played in a record-tying four IIHF Women’s U18 tournaments, an exception can be made.

Bolgareva was born in Moscow in 1999 but feels more American these days after having developed her skills in that part of the world.

“I lived in Boston for four years from age 14 until just recently,” Bolgareva explained. “I was studying at the Arlington Catholic high school. I lived with a host family while my parents were back in Russia. It was a bit difficult.”

There was little rhyme or reason why she landed in Boston, or anywhere for that matter. “They wanted me to have a different experience, so they sent me to Boston,” she said with a friendly shrug.

It was her father who got her interested in hockey in the first place.

“My dad knew a lot of hockey players when I was growing up,” she continued. “One day, he was having a party, and maybe he was just joking, but he gave me skates and a hockey uniform and told me to go skating. It was cool. I really liked it, and that’s why I’m here.”

A strong skater, Bolgareva launched herself into hockey while in Boston. “I played with the Boston Stars, a boys’ team,” she enthused. “It was difficult because they were younger and were very physical, which I wasn’t used to. They taught me how to play, so I’m really an American player is some ways!”

Her skill was noticed almost immediately, and in quick order her international career began. “Alexander Ulyankin, the coach for the national junior team, called me,” she continued. “I still don’t know how he got my name or number. He told me I should play for the team, so I said okay, and now this is my fourth year. It’s been a lot of fun.”

Bolgareva was on the bronze-medal team of 2015 and is in her final year of eligibility for the U18 team. If her team can beat the Czech Republic today, she is guaranteed to play six games this tournament, making that 24 for her career. This would be a new IIHF record, surpassing the 23 played by Linnea Hedin of Sweden (who also played in four WW18s).

Bolgareva returned to Russia last fall. She started playing with the Olimpiets, a boys’ hockey school near Moscow, but soon enough she got a call to play in the Women’s Hockey League. The league, sponsored by the KHL, is in its second season. The eight teams play an impressive 42-game schedule, and Bolgareva plays for Nizhny Novgorod.

“I just want to play another year or two and then return to Boston and live a normal life,” she said. “I love it there. I want to study and improve my English and relax. I just finished my high school, and when I go back to Boston I want to work in a bank. I have a lot of friends in Boston and can find work there, I think.”

But first there is a little matter called the Olympics, only 13 months away in PyeongChang, South Korea.

“If I’m asked to try out for the Olympic team, I will try my best. It would be great to go to the Olympics,” Bolgareva agreed. But after that, her hockey career is likely finished.

“I want to play, but just a little. I’m a girl. I want to relax and have a family, but not right away. I’m too young. I want to grow up!”


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