Saroya Tinker and Mikyla Grant-Mentis Made History at PHF All-Star Game
By Ian Kennedy,
Saroya Tinker and Mikyla Grant-Mentis played in the PHF's all-star showcase in Toronto as they continue to strive for representation and inclusion in hockey.
When Saroya Tinker and Mikyla Grant-Mentis stepped on the ice together at the PHF All-Star Game only days before the start of Black History Month, it was another historic step forward in the ever-changing face of women’s hockey.
It was the first time two Black women had competed together in a professional women’s hockey all-star competition in the history of the sport. Grant-Mentis appeared in the PHF All-Star Game last season while playing alongside Tinker with the Toronto Six, but this year represented as a member of the Buffalo Beauts.
While they’re now regular-season opponents, Grant-Mentis, nicknamed ‘Bucky,’ and Tinker, remain fighting for a common cause: representation and inclusion in hockey.
“It’s so important,” Tinker said of providing representation to young Black women in hockey. “Myself and ‘Bucky’ take it upon ourselves to be that positive piece of representation… If they can’t see us on the ice, they can’t believe it that they can do it. It’s so important we’re able to showcase that as all-stars but also showcase that within our leagues and teams every day and be a piece of representation for the little Black girls who want to be pro hockey players one day.”
Grant-Mentis was the 2020-21 PHF MVP and newcomer of the year. The Merrimack College alumna is in her fourth season in the league, splitting her career between the Beauts and Toronto Six. Tinker, a 5-foot-10 defender and Yale University graduate, is now in her third season in the league.
Tinker has also become one of the preeminent voices in hockey, combating racism and opening doors for women and girls of color in the game. This year, she was named the executive director of Black Girl Hockey Club Canada, an expansion of the original organization that provides scholarship, mentorship and mental health support, and it runs community events for Black women and girls in hockey in the United States.
“When I started with Black Girl Hockey Club, we obviously had quite a few girls, but we’ve grown immensely,” Tinker said. “That’s a huge reason why we had to come up here to Canada and get involved.”
Tinker, who hails from Oshawa, Ont., played her entire minor hockey career in the Toronto region and represented Canada, winning a silver medal at the 2015-16 U-18 women’s World Championship.
She sees the opportunity to grow the sport, to make hockey more diverse and to create community among fans and players, especially among youth.
“It’s so important for us to have that community… it’s so that they can have friends, they can have a community, they can feel welcomed, and they know that other Black women love hockey just as much as they do,” said Tinker.
“Black History Month, we want to showcase our organization and make sure that the word is out that we’re here in Canada now… We’re really hoping to give these girls the networking and connections that they need to be successful in hockey, whether that’s them playing pro or them just playing to have fun... It’s so amazing to see our community grow each and every day.”
That growth has come through other Black women in the game – leaders including Hockey Hall of Fame member and Toronto Six GM Angela James and former NWHL (now the PHF) and CWHL champion Blake Bolden. Bolden became the first Black woman to serve as an NHL scout in 2020 when the Los Angeles Kings hired her.
The community effort to grow has continued by Tinker, Grant-Mentis, and PWHPA player Sarah Nurse, who has won U-18, World and Olympic gold with Canada and recently became the first woman ever depicted on the cover of EA Sports’ NHL video game series.
Some day, the torch will be passed to other talented young Black hockey players, such as Laila Edwards and Jade Iginla, or, as Tinker hopes, one of the many girls impacted by Black Girl Hockey Club’s programming.
“I want to see these girls succeed. I want to see them break our records. I want to see them be better than us, and that’s exactly where the women’s game is headed,” said Tinker. “We hope they’ll be able to make a sustainable living wage and only solely be able to focus on hockey but also be welcomed as Black girls in the game. It means the world to me if I were to see that, and I hope I do in a few years.”
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