By: PWHL Media 


Earlier this month, on Thursday, February 1, 2024, Black Girl Hockey Club Canada (BGHC Canada), in collaboration with Hockey Equality and the Leafs Hockey Development program, organized a remarkable event as part of NHL All-Star Thursday festivities. The event, held at Nathan Phillips Square, brought together Hockey Equality and Black Girl Hockey Club Canada’s “Future All-Stars” from across the GTA for a high-level skate, followed by the opportunity to watch their idols in action at the PWHL 3-on-3 game.  


Saroya Tinker—who was recently named PWHL Manager, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiatives & Community Engagement— is the co-founder and Executive Director of Black Girl Hockey Club Canada.  


“Black Girl Hockey Club is a community organization where we aim to get more black women into the sport of hockey and just provide a community for them to come and feel like they’re safe and have a place to go to with other black women that love hockey as much as they do,” Tinker explained.  


The skate came about when Mark Fraser and the NHL Player Inclusion Coalition (NHL PIC) determined that they wanted to highlight high-level BIPOC girls in the GTA— Fraser and the NHL PIC also purchased the tickets to the 3-on-3 event. With that, BGHC Canada and Hockey Equality collaborated to find the best and most diverse group of girls in the city that play AAA boys or AA girls. 


“We wanted them to be able to see the speed of the PWHL at the 3-on-3 All-Star and give them something to work towards, as they could not only see all of their role models on the ice, but be surrounded by other BIPOC women who have the same aspirations as them,” said Tinker.  


The coaches who guided the girls on the ice included Tinker, Nyla Brooks from Seaside Hockey, former player Krashandra Green, Sport-a-Rainbow owner Rose Powers and hockey legends Angela James and Vicky Sunohara. These experienced mentors not only instructed the participants on the ice but also shared valuable insights and inspiration from their own journeys in the sport. 


James, a hockey icon and Hockey Hall of Famer, detailed the impact of the event for her personally, stating, “How amazing and special I felt being in the same space with all the BIPOC elite women hockey players, coaches and organizers.”  


She also encouraged the girls to persevere in their pursuits and embrace the endless possibilities in the sport. “The opportunity to show the hockey community your talent, commitment to growing the game, and representation of your sport is crucial for the growth of diverse athletes,” she remarked. 


Reflecting on her experience at the skate, Green said, “I couldn’t believe the amount of talent I got to witness from these young girls. I was inspired by their attitudes, resiliency, and excitement. As we bounced off each other‘s energy, they made me feel empowered. I felt empowered because this was a chance for us to grow together as a community.” 


Green also emphasized the importance of racialized coaches as mentors for aspiring athletes from diverse backgrounds. She highlighted the empowerment that comes from shared experiences within a community, stating, “Having racialized coaches can make all the difference in an athlete’s success.” 


Participants expressed their excitement and gratitude for the opportunity to come together and showcase their skills. Gem Winter, who took part in the skate, captured the sentiment, stating, “It was so amazing because everyone was kind of wanting to show off in front of all the O.G.’s, you know.” The camaraderie and shared passion for the sport were evident as the girls bonded over their love for hockey. 


Chloe Martineau, another participant, echoed Gem’s enthusiasm, expressing the significance of the event in shaping her aspirations for the future. She articulated her admiration for the mentors and role models present, stating, “It was so fun. It was so amazing. They’re literally all like models for me in the future. I want to be like most of them, go in the PWHL and just work hard in hockey and know they’re there to support me.” 


During the skate, Anthony Stewart, retired NHL player, member of the NHL PIC, and founder of Hockey Equality, stressed the significance of showcasing the future of women’s hockey through events like these and emphasized the potential of these young athletes to make significant contributions to the future of women’s hockey, both nationally and internationally. 


The event was a testament to the collaborative efforts of various organizations and individuals committed to promoting diversity and inclusion in hockey. Mark Fraser, Director of Culture and Inclusion for the Toronto Maple Leafs, reflected on the positive changes he observed upon returning to the organization in 2021. He noted the increase in the number of women contributing to the team’s daily operations and success.  


He further detailed the importance of representation in the sport, stating, “These young girls need to see themselves in our game. They need to see other racialized women in the game to truly believe they can do it too.” 


The collaboration between Black Girl Hockey Club Canada, Hockey Equality, and the Leafs Hockey Development program underscores a collective commitment to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion within the hockey community.  


By providing a platform for young female players from diverse backgrounds to shine, events like the Future All-Stars Skate at Nathan Phillips Square are not only inspiring the next generation of hockey stars but also paving the way for a more inclusive and representative sport as it currently stands.