Last weekend, the Premier Hockey Federation (PHF) showcased the stars of women’s professional hockey at an All-Star showdown in Toronto, with 45 players divided into three teams: U.S., Canada and International. They played in a round-robin competition with bragging rights on the line. Among the stars on the triumphant Team Canada was first-time All-Star Saroya Tinker, who plays for the Toronto Six.
“Toronto is a huge market for women’s hockey, and an All-Star competition showcases the women’s game very well,” said Tinker, who grew up in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. “The women’s game is still a struggle, but we’re making huge strides forward in our league…We’re ready for people to start respecting and recognizing female hockey players.”
RELATED: ‘A movement not a moment’: NHL focuses on racial diversity
Tinker is also ready for greater diversity in the sport. She is actively trying to promote access to the sport through the Black Girl Hockey Club, which launched last fall. It gives out scholarships and financial aid, as well as having a mentorship program.
A 2020 graduate of Yale University, Tinker was the only Black player on Yale’s women’s hockey team until her senior year.
“When Kiersten Goode came in, she was like a little sister to me and I was a mentor to her,” said Tinker, who found community by joining a sorority and making friends with student-athletes in other sports. “It was a struggle, but at the same time, we learned a lot and we were able to educate people along the way.”
Growing up in Canada, Tinker tried several sports, and most enjoyed being on the ice and the freedom of skating. “I remember times in high school where I would go to open skate, put my headphones in and just do laps,” she said. “The difficulties came along the way, but my dad always stressed to let those things go in one ear and out the other. There were times I felt excluded from my team and did not have a role model to look to, as we see just the first generation of Black female hockey players coming up now.
“We’re looking to build that atmosphere in the professional sphere and we’re welcoming our community as we go up,” she continued. “If I had mentors along the way, I would have had a different experience in hockey and felt like I had a community that stood behind me. I’m stressing that sense of community and being unapologetically Black in the sport.”