How Paul Bourdeau helped grow the sport of women’s hockey, two players at a time
Published in 2007 New England Super Lawyers magazine
on October 23, 2007
Updated on January 25, 2017
When he was 16, Paul Bourdeau sat next to a bobbed teen skating sensation named Dorothy Hamill at a post-exhibition dinner. A skater himself, he was smitten with the future Olympic hero. But that doesn’t come close to his top rink memory. Neither does passing the silver-level test in ice dancing. Nor watching Team USA defeat Russia in the 1980 Olympics. After 40-odd years on blades, Bourdeau’s greatest skating joy comes from watching his own miracles on ice from the bleachers.
“It is exhilarating,” Bourdeau says of seeing his daughters Caroline and Maria play hockey at the college and high school level, respectively, “especially watching Caroline score the first goal in Boston University women’s varsity history.”
Bourdeau also takes comfort knowing that the skills his daughters are learning as rink rats—drive, dedication, teamwork—will carry far beyond their hockey careers. “There are skills that are transferable to just about every part of life,” says the Cummings and Lockwood lawyer.
Bourdeau has believed in the value of athletic competition since he first strapped on a pair of ice skates as a competitive ice dancer at age 10. “Our local Hartford rink held the national figure skating championships in 1977 and the world championships in 1981,” he says. “It was a great and exciting time for the growth of figure skating.”
Though Bourdeau fell short of Torvill and Dean status, his love of skating never flagged. In high school, however, he hung up his figure skates for hockey skates. He discovered that he loved being part of a team. He skated varsity and continued to play while attending Yale, competing in the intramural leagues.
Off the ice, Bourdeau discovered his academic passion in law. After graduating from Boston University Law School, he found his niche in estate tax law.
“What I really enjoy is getting a family to come together and make a plan, and watch that plan come into fruition,” Bourdeau says. “It goes back to teamwork.”
Bourdeau was thrilled to be able to pass along his passion for skating to the two youngest members of his own team. He coached his daughters when they played for the Connecticut Polar Bears, a premier girls development program. Bourdeau pushed the sport’s fundamentals, stressing team play and hard work. And before long, college recruiters started calling.
“With so many of the premier East Coast schools investing in women’s hockey, it is a great time for female players,” says Bourdeau.
As for himself, he confines his playing to an “old man’s league” on Sunday nights. It’s not as much as he’d like to play, but that’s OK. He’s having enough fun living vicariously through his daughters.
“It has been great watching the girls grow, and the sport grow,” he says. “We try to make it to as many games as we can. It’s a joy.”