The IX: Hockey Friday with Erica L. Ayala, May 22, 2020

When will we listen? — Interview with Mikyla Grant-Mentis — Must-click WoHo links

(Hi! Howard Megdal here. The IX helps build the necessary infrastructure for women’s sports media. In this moment, freelance budgets are being cut, reporters are losing their jobs. Women’s sports always bears the brunt of that first.

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When will we listen?

This week I am not going to talk about women in hockey. I am instead going to pull quotes from Akim Aliu’s story in Players Tribune.

Before I share his words, a few of my own. Well, a confession really. I stayed away from this story all week. I did not engage on social media. Why?

Because I’m tired. I’m tired of being asked if “I feel safe” in hockey. I tired of being asked to justify the fact that hockey — like every other thing in the world in 2020 — reeks of institutional and cultural racism and white supremacy.

I’m tired of having to hear and read allies continue to ask me what they should do. I’m tired of hearing and reading about the dismantlement of racism and white supremacy whilst using terms like “minority” or “non-white”.

If you are stuck on this topic, this is my advice: come to me with questions only after putting in the work. Read the Willie Lynch letter. Learn about implicit bias. Read about the stories players tell, and believe them!

Akim Aliu’s words:

“You know what I think is amusing? The NHL’s title for their annual diversity campaign, ‘Hockey is For Everyone.’ Makes me crack up. Because, right now, hockey is not for everyone. I learned that when I was 16.”

“The purpose of this story is not to drag everyone in hockey, or the sport itself, into the mud. This is about the biggest problems facing the game I love — and how we can fix them.

I’m talking about the racism, misogyny, bullying and homophobia that permeates the culture of hockey. These issues have ramifications that most cannot — or will not — see. They are not fun to talk about. And it seems like most only want to discuss them when something drastic happens, like K’Andre Miller’s horrific experience in an online Q and A a few months ago. Someone hijacked the Zoom call and called him the n-word over and over again through the chat feature.”

“My dad came in through the front door, and I could see he was crying. He had nowhere to hide. He had to cry in front of his seven-year-old son.

He told me that the police had stopped him on his way home the day before for no reason. They asked for his passport and a bribe to stop them from arresting him, despite his having done nothing wrong.

He refused, so they strip-searched him, robbed him of all his cash and arrested him so he had to spend the night in jail. We barely had any money at the time, too. I couldn’t really grasp what had happened. I was just sad. My dad was in pain, I knew that. But there’s nothing you can do about it. I learned what an isolating thing it was to experience something like that.”

“I can still hear this guy’s voice in my head. He had that French Canadian accent.

‘How many times are we going to let this n***** score?’

His voice just punched through the air in the rink. I heard him as clear as day. 

And nothing happened, really. The game went on, none of my teammates or coaches said anything to me. I didn’t expect them to. I didn’t fully understand the weight of what had just happened. I just looked up and down the bench. I was the only black boy.”

This last quote is most profound for me. Instead of asking me what to do or what to read. Start telling the people who look like you — your teammates, colleagues, and your family members — to stop being racist.

This week in Women’s Hockey

Hey there! In a time with no live sports, there are plenty of writers finding great stories to tell. Clicking these links helps show the audience for women’s hockey. It also helps spread the word about The IX Newsletter. How about that for a win-win!

The full story by Akim, entitled Hockey is Not for Everyone.

ICYMI: We named the first three members of The IX Advisory Board. Thank you Megan Rose, Julie Foudy, and Anya Packer for your support!

2019 Clarkson Cup champion Rebecca Johnston excited to bring women’s hockey back to Calgary.

Last Friday the NWHL announced the cancellation of the 2020 Isobel Cup Final.

“Biases are the stories we make up about people before we know who they actually are.” –Verna Myer TED Talk

Jayna Hefford outlines the future of the PWHPA in this Q&A.

Kwani Lewis and Sammy Davis chat on IG Live.

NWHL Toronto no more! The sixth NWHL franchise has a name; The Six.

Amanda Kessel discusses NHL and women’s hockey.

Jocelyn Larocque shocked, honored to make All-Time Team Canada roster.

This is the best open to an interview I’ve ever seen! Natalie Spooner joined Hockey Central to chat about the PWHPA.

Boston Pride President Hayley Moore joined a panel of Women’s Sports Executives hosted by Ian Thomas.

With hockey on pause, Shiann Darkangelo launches a plant-based nutrition business.

Tweet of the Week

Keep up with this thread for the official PWHPA membership roster. Players from this pool will eventually tryout for the 25-player roster in each PWHPA training city.

Five at The IX: Mikyla Grant-Mentis, Toronto Six

Mikyla Grant-Mentis was a top scorer at Merrimack before making her professional debut with the Buffalo Beauts while still in college. We spoke to MGM or “Bucky” this week to learn more about her hockey journey and why she decided to sign with The Six.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Corrine Buie just as the Buffalo Beauts were headed into the Isobel Cup Playoffs. She told me your nickname is Bucky. What is the story behind that?

Honestly, everyone always thinks it’s a huge, big story, but it’s really not. When I was younger — I have a twin brother –and we used to play hockey together. I understand a boy’s league and I would always get the hard stuff because I wasn’t the best at that point. So I had this jofa helmet, which is like a very, very old helmet. And he just said, “it’s a Bucky helmet,” and that’s the stuck for like my entire life now.

What was it about hockey that that really drew you to the game at that young age?

So my dad actually played ball hockey for Team Canada. So he’s the one that actually put — well my brothers — into hockey and I was to dance, unfortunately. I basically just begged my parents to play with my brother and they actually, they gave in. That’s pretty much it. We just kept playing because of my dad, who is basically still playing now. So we just kept following what he did.

We flash forward through your career. You were at Merrimack and then were able to make your way to the NWHL. What was your first introduction to the National Women’s Hockey League? Had you ever had any thoughts yourself of perhaps pursuing it after college?

So I actually I didn’t know much about it, per se. But I was looking to go overseas to play for a bit and then, come back and play for whichever league that was down here. I didn’t really know much before Mandy (Cronin) called me and my roommate to come play for them. I knew there was a Boston team and stuff like I didn’t look into it that much.

A lot has happened in the world since to first hit the ice with the Buffalo Beauts. What were some of the things that you considered and ultimately led you to sign a contract with the the new team in Toronto?

Well, I’ll say the pandemic had a lot to do with it. It made me think, ‘Well, do I really want to be away from my family for so long? Who know what’s actually going to happen?’ That was a big part.

And what I was thinking of the NWHL and playing for Buffalo again, going back there. But then, I live like closer to Toronto. So the drive would be a lot back and forth and I’d have to find a job. And then when they announced the Toronto team, I was like, well that’s perfect. I literally live like 20 minutes away. It wouldn’t be too much of a drive. I can stay home with my family. My brother just had another child. I missed my other cousins’ first four years because I was away at school all the time.

So I don’t really want to miss my nephews first four years. I just want to stay home and we’ll see what happens. And when the Toronto came up, I said ‘Perfect. That’s the spot I want to be. That’s where I wan to go.”

We have an official name for the Toronto team, The Six. I only know about the nickname from what Drake says. Can you break down from your understanding the meaning behind the name The Six. What are your immediate thoughts about being able to play for that first NWHL expansion in Canada?

My understanding is it’s from the area code, 416. And then obviously I believe it just got popular from Drake’s song and everyone started using it. It’s just like a common term, like down here. It’s like, ‘Oh, I’m going to The Six tonight’ or like stuff like that, that’s what people say.

I thought is pretty cool. That’s, that’s what they use. Like I think of like something that they would use. We have a lot of Toronto teams, so I didn’t know what they would choose. But it’s a good it’s a good thing because like everyone uses that lingo. So it’s like it’s good for around here. But many people like in America have no idea what it means. It’s kind of funny … it’s kinda like our own thing.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon  Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal High Post Hoops
Thursdays: Golf
By Carly Grenfell, @Carlygren
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala,@ELindsay08 NWHL Broadcaster

Written by Erica L. Ayala