AJ Boldan’s passion for hockey and desire to grow the game cannot be questioned.
“I have four full-time jobs and get paid for one,” the Rochester native said with a laugh.
Three of those jobs — the ones Boldan doesn’t take a salary for — often require all of the passion and dedication he can muster, as well as long hours. They also keep him active at one of his favorite places — the hockey rink at the Salt Lake City Sports Complex.
By day, the 1997 Rochester John Marshall graduate is an Integration Engineer for the University of Utah. Also by day, and often by night, Boldan is the President and General Manager of the University of Utah non-varsity men’s and women’s hockey teams that play in the American Collegiate Hockey Association.
He’s also the executive director of the PAC-8 Hockey Conference and the executive producer of the ACHA’s national tournament broadcasts.
In other words, shoes without laces were made for people like Boldan. He wouldn’t have time to tie them.
“There’s no balance, that’s for sure,” Boldan said of his non-stop schedule. “Our men’s program keeps progressing. We recently moved from Division II to Division I and we added a women’s program last year. We’re the only program in Utah with men’s and women’s programs, and there are four other Utah schools with Division II programs.”
Boldan grew up in Rochester, playing goalie in the Rochester Youth Hockey Association system. He stepped away from organized hockey after that for nearly a decade, moving to Salt Lake City after graduating from JM.
It was Utah, of all places, where his love for the game was rekindled. Boldan joined an adult recreational league in Salt Lake City and began to enjoy the game again. After graduating, he went to work in the I.T. department at the University of Utah’s School of Medicine — the one of his four jobs that he gets paid to do.
In 2006, Utah started its non-varsity men’s hockey program just as Boldan was going back to school at the university. A Utes coach saw him play in an adult league game and asked him if he’d be interested in joining the fledgling program.
“I got recruited as a goalie and played for them for a couple years,” Boldan said. “After my first season they asked for some organizational help, then I got roped into what I’m doing now.”
The Utes program has flourished under the leadership of Boldan, who is in the top five in five all-time statistical categories in Utah’s record books. Utah’s men’s team moved to ACHA Division I four years ago, added a women’s program this past season and will move into a new conference in the fall, the Western Collegiate Hockey League (a conference that is also home to Arizona, Arizona State, UNLV, Grand Canyon, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Central Oklahoma, Colorado, Colorado State and Missouri State).
“I take care of everything off the ice for our teams,” Boldan said of his duties as the Utes’ president and GM, “from negotiating contracts, helping with some recruiting, though I really prefer the coaches handle that. And we’re the only non-varsity program at the university that has a deal with the campus store to handle all our apparel and merchandise.”
A passion rekindled
Boldan’s commitment to the Utah program and his dedication to running the Pac-8 and the national tournament broadcasts hasn’t gone unnoticed. He was awarded the Don Spencer Award in 2018, an award that his given in recognition of outstanding service and leadership for the ACHA.
Last year, he was named one of Utah’s “40 Under 40” by Utah Business magazine, for “innovating the future of the business landscape in Utah while building communities that will inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs.”
Boldan’s passion for Utah’s program and ACHA hockey has revitalized his love for the game and opened his eyes to a level of hockey that he says is a fantastic option for many college players. The ACHA has 500 teams across five divisions, including teams in 48 states.
“Growing up in Minnesota, it’s pretty much NCAA or bust,” Boldan said. “The club hockey mentality is what it is, but for the few schools that offer NCAA programs, the ACHA is a great opportunity otherwise.
“When we’re talking to recruits, we’re pretty much competing for (NCAA) Division III athletes. That’s where ACHA Division I hockey is right now, those are the recruits we’re after. For players who want to choose between a small private school or a big Pac-10 or Pac-12 school, who want a big-school experience, that’s where we come into play.”