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Blackhawks Magazine: The myth of Dave Bolland

by Kelsey Peters / Chicago Blackhawks

The following is excerpted from the November edition of Blackhawks Magazine. Pick up the latest issue at all Blackhawks home games, starting Nov. 6 vs. Vancouver, and at the Blackhawks Store by calling (800) GO-HAWKS.

Dave Bolland isn’t the Blackhawks biggest star, but he plays one of the team’s most important roles: shutting down the opponent’s top line. “The Rat,” as he’s affectionately referred to, gained almost cult-like status among fans during the 2010 Stanley Cup run for getting under the skin of players like Joe Thornton, the Sedin twins and Mike Richards. But even still, Bolland seems to move among the shadows on a team deep with talent.   

So who is Dave Bolland? How’d he acquire the nickname? And has he always had some peskiness to his game? Blackhawks Magazine talked to friends, coaches, teammates and opponents to get to the bottom of… The myth of Dave Bolland.

The Blackhawks had beaten Philadelphia 4-2 in the Final to bring home the silver chalice. New attention had been brought to the team — and to Bolland himself. The nickname “The Rat” was born, though the details are fuzzy, much like some of the Stanley Cup championship celebrations. 

BRYAN BICKELL (Blackhawks left wing): The nickname actually started a long time ago. We were in Norfolk, and David Koci was on our team, and we used to play against the Albany River Rats. We’d only play against them a couple times a year, but Dave used to do it back then —stir up the pot — and Koci always called him the Albany River Rats, and “The Rat” just stuck from there. I know a couple other guys that we’ve played with the past couple years think they made it up, but that’s the original story.

BOLLAND: I don’t remember that. It was either Laddy (Andrew Ladd) or Duncs (Duncan Keith). I think it was against San Jose, or maybe it was Vancouver. Laddy and Steeger (Kris Versteeg) said it to the reporters, so I think that’s how it all started.

ANDREW LADD (former Blackhawks left wing): I think maybe it was Dunc that started it, just because during the playoffs Dave has that role of getting under guys’ skin and being a “rat.” 

DUNCAN KEITH (Blackhawks defenseman): I have no idea when it started. I didn’t make it up. I think Buff (Dustin Byfuglien) did. 

EDDIE OLCZYK (Blackhawks TV color analyst): I have very little information, and what information I would have, I’m sworn to secrecy. But I will say it’s a pretty darn good name. He is everywhere. He’s really good in close areas and in corners. He finds the puck all the time. And he’s a little bit of an agitator. The original “Rat” that I know is Ken Linseman (NHL, 1978-92). Similar type of player, but Davey’s got a lot more offensive skill. Maybe that makes him a classier “rat”?

JAMAL MAYERS (Blackhawks right wing): Yeah, I think Kenny Linseman has that name wrapped up, but sure, certainly it’s a compliment any time your opponent considers you an effective player, and that’s not to diminish his skill level because he is able to do a lot more than check. 

AL MACISAAC (Blackhawks vice president/assistant to the president): I don’t know where it started, but when I think of “The Rat,” I think of Linseman, the quintessential hard-nosed, gritty, in your face, little guy that was a pest. Dave, to me, has more to offer. “Rat” is a good nickname, a good moniker to put on him, but he’s more well-rounded than that. You can’t put a rat on a power play.

PAUL CAPIZZANO (agent with MFIVE Sports Management): I don’t particularly like the name “The Rat.” I’m not sure he’s too fond of it either… Sometimes you think of the word “rat,” and you think of someone who’s dirty, who’s suspended. I don’t see Dave being dirty. I think he’s just a player that gets in everyone’s skates because his compete level is so high. 

ANTON THUN (co-director of MFIVE Sports Management): I think it’s a compliment to be quite honest. He does the dirty work in the corners and goes to the dangerous areas when some players don’t want to do that. Be rest assured that there’s no National Hockey League team that’s ever won the Stanley Cup simply with a bunch of skilled players. What Dave does doesn’t always show up on the scoreboard, but it contributes to success.

DANIEL CARCILLO (Blackhawks left wing): It’s kind of mean. I mean, rats spread diseases. But he definitely gets the other team off their game and gets them thinking about him, which is what you want to do as an agitator. 

STAN BOWMAN (Blackhawks vice president / general manager): I think “The Rat” is a good description for his game. I think he certainly agitates. It is frustrating for some of these bigger guys because he is a little scrawny guy, and they think ,“How can he be so effective against us?” That kind of adds to the annoyance factor. But he just finds a way to make plays and get under their skin; he does all the little tricks.

JOEL QUENNEVILLE (Blackhawks head coach): A little whack here, a little whack there… he’s got some abrasiveness to him. I don’t know if it’s ratness or sneakiness — or intelligence. I just think he really does have the instincts, both offensively and defensively, that compliment his style of play. 

JONATHAN TOEWS (Blackhawks captain): Yep, the white rat… because he’s really pale. 

JULIA ZALUCKI (Bolland’s fiancée): I think his play makes a lot of people upset and angry, and that’s the point. So we’ll keep the nickname. But he also likes to be called “Greyhound.” 

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