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Jake Boltmann comes from a football family and even did some quarterbacking for his high-school team, but he didn’t have a hope of evading this unexpected blitz.
He was tackled.
Soon, he was trending.
Boltmann’s story has put a smile on a lot of faces over the past few weeks. He is the young buck who was on the ice for a practice with the United States Hockey League’s Lincoln Stars when he learned he had been selected by the Calgary Flames in the third round of the 2020 NHL Draft.
Thanks to the bright idea of a Stars’ staffer, the moment was captured on video and shared on social media. It’s the sort of feel-good content we could all use more of.
“Going into practice that day, obviously it’s in the back of your mind about the draft, but you never really know what’s going to happen,” said Boltmann, who turned 19 this past week. “So you’re trying your best to push it to the back of your head and just try to focus on the drills and making sure you’re doing everything right out there. But all of a sudden, the coach starts blowing the whistle at the other end of the rink and slamming his stick and before I know it, I’m getting tackled by all of my teammates.
“At first, I was super confused about what was going on and then I saw the jumbotron that was right over me start flashing and it had my name and Calgary Flames and third round, 80 th overall selection. So that was really cool. And then before you know it, I’m face-first on the ice with a bunch of my buddies on my back. It was a blur, but it’s something I’ll never forget. The film crew here in Lincoln did a great job of capturing that moment and I can’t thank them enough for doing that for me, because now I have that personal experience of knowing what it’s like but also I have a clip that I can watch for the rest of my life and look back on that cool moment.”
On that particular day, the Junior A-level Stars split practice into two sessions, with a flood at the midway mark.
When the Zamboni hit the ice, the just-drafted defenceman quickly called his proud parents Reed and Trish — more on them in a minute — and his brother Brock, who is on the football roster at the University of North Dakota and pulled off a rare trifecta last season, throwing a touchdown pass but also finding the end-zone as a rusher and as a receiver. (Jake was also a versatile threat on the gridiron, playing both QB and WR before deciding to focus solely on his puck pursuits.)
During that break, Cristiano Simonetta, the play-by-play voice and director of communications for Lincoln’s USHL team, showed Boltmann the soon-to-be-viral video and mentioned that he’d just posted it on social media.
“It was insane how big that blew up,” Boltmann said. “We went back out for the second half of practice and I get off the ice and all of a sudden, all these other guys are coming up to me and saying, ‘Hockey Canada has tweeted it,’ and ‘NHL has tweeted it.’ I was just like, ‘This is nuts, man.’ I never thought something like that would blow up that big. Spittin’ Chiclets put it out, too, and I didn’t even really know what to say after that.
“To see it take off like it did, that’s a credit to my teammates. We have a special group of guys here, and they made that what it was. They easily could have just slammed their sticks or whatnot, but they tackled me and made that video pretty special.”
Curt Giles, who logged nearly 1,000 games — a tally that includes both regular-season and playoff dates — as an NHL defenceman and made Boltmann his captain last season as head coach of the Edina High School Hornets, won’t be surprised this talented teen would credit his pals.
He wasn’t surprised by the mob, either.
“He’s an extreme, extreme team guy. He’ll sacrifice anything personally for the team,” Giles said of Boltmann, who notched five goals and 14 points in 27 games in his senior campaign with the Hornets. “His teammates, you could tell in that video they were extremely excited for him. If he was a jerk and he was self-centred or self-promoting, that wouldn’t be the reaction that you’d get.”
Thing is, Boltmann’s social-media stardom didn’t end there.
Simonetta also helped to arrange a surprise visit from his parents, capturing an emotional moment that must have been a tearjerker for some in the Twitterverse.
Boltmann, who will spend this season in Nebraska with the USHL’s Stars — he also made 17 appearances there last winter — and then return closer to home to skate for the NCAA’s University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, was being interviewed by a local news crew when Simonetta started to chime in with a few questions, including: “If you could say one thing to your parents right now, what would you say?”
As part of his answer, the well-spoken youngster admitted, “I wish they were here right now so I could give them a big hug.”
“And then all of a sudden, Cristiano says, ‘Well, turn around, they’re here,’ ” Boltmann said. “I have to give him a lot of credit. He captured two pretty crazy and pretty special moments of my life.”
The USHL opens its regular season in the first week of November at it won’t be uncommon to see Boltmann’s proud parents at the Ice Box in Lincoln, where spectators are allowed but capacity is currently limited to 50% due to COVID-19.
Both are full-time teachers in Minnesota — mom at an elementary school, dad at the high-school level — but Reed also works a second job for Delta Airlines so he can chase his boys around on weekends.
“He works on the tarmac,” Boltmann said of his father, who also played college football and was later head coach of the Hornets for an eight-season span. “It’s not a luxurious job, but he does it just for the flight benefits, so he can come see my brother and I play. And that’s awesome. I love when I’m able to see him and my mom at our games. And he does the hard work for us to be able to have that.”
Jake’s ultimate goal is that his parents will someday be flying into Calgary to watch their son skate at the Saddledome.
Listed at 6-foot-1 and 188 lb., Boltmann isn’t going to fire up the fan-base with eye-popping offensive stats, but the Flames’ scouts like his mobility and his vision and believe he has a future as a reliable shutdown sort. It’s not easy to find right-handed rearguards, so it would be nice to grow one of their own.
“I’m a really competitive guy. I hate losing hockey games,” Boltmann said. “I think that I’m really hard to play against. I can skate well, and then I bring some physicality to the game, as well. I feel like I can make a good first pass. I’m obviously still young — I just turned 19 the other day — and there is a long way for my development to go, but I’m really excited about my future. Obviously, you have to get better all-around if you want to keep going up levels and levels, but I think I have a good base to start at.
“Getting drafted, I would say, is that first step. There is still a long way to go if you want to make this a profession. So that’s what I’m focused on now. I’m focused on proving the guys that gave me a chance in Calgary, proving them right, and then just taking it from there.”
The way that Giles describes him, this will be an easy guy for the Flames’ faithful to root for.
“I’ll tell you, when you first get a chance to meet him, you think that maybe this is going to be worn out after a while, that you can’t be that positive and that upbeat the entire time,” Giles said. “You keep thinking, ‘That’s Day 1.’ You’d think that 365 days later or two years later or three years later … I had him for four years, and it was the same thing every single day. He is just such a positive kid.
“He’s a strong, strong leader. He’s a vocal leader, plus he’s a physical leader, and there are not many situations he can’t handle. So he’s a good kid and a good draft pick for the Calgary Flames.”
Giles described Boltmann as a trustworthy type who “will come out of the corner with the puck more times than not” and “does a lot of really, really good things defensively.”
Coming from a gent who patrolled the blue-line for the Minnesota North Stars, New York Rangers and St. Louis Blues and helped Team Canada to a silver medal at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, that means a lot.
“He’s very coachable, very approachable,” Giles said. “And I have a six-year-old grandson who thinks he’s the greatest thing on the face of the Earth. He is starting to play hockey now as a six-year-old and he took No. 2, and I was extremely proud of that since I was No. 2 for pretty much my whole NHL career. And I asked him the other day, ‘Why’d you take No. 2?’ And he told me, ‘Because it’s Jake Boltmann.’ So I had to tuck my ego away on that one.”
Boltmann might need to eventually select different digits in Calgary, where No. 2 is not officially retired but hasn’t been worn since the Forever A Flame salute to Al MacInnis. (He is, it’s worth noting, sporting No. 4 in Lincoln.)
That discussion, of course, is several years down the road. Boltmann isn’t getting too far ahead of himself.
He does allow, however, that it would be pretty neat to be trending on Twitter again thanks to a big hit or a highlight-reel setup in National Hockey League action.
“Having that video of me finding out that I’d been drafted blow up, it was cool,” Boltmann said. “But actually making that dream come true in the next few years, that would be even cooler. That’s what I’m striving for, and I think I can get it done.”
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