By Ian Kennedy
Black history in hockey isn’t just a thing of the past, it’s still being made.
For generations, Black men fought for inclusion in the sport at a time when women of any color were excluded. Now, Black women are working to create space in the game, both on the ice and off, while challenging the intersectional issues of race and gender.
In the annals of women’s hockey, Angela James’ legacy is untouchable for Black women. “The first superstar of modern women’s hockey,” James was among the first class of women inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009. After winning four World Championship gold medals, including at the first ever IIHF women’s championship in 1990, James was also inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame. Today, she continues to impact the game as an assistant coach for the PHF’s Toronto Six.
In the United States, Doxie McCoy was one of the first Black women to make an impact in hockey. McCoy was a founding member of Boston College’s women’s hockey team in 1973, playing goal. The team was founded one year after Title IX legislation passed, making McCoy and her teammates trailblazers for all of women’s hockey in the United States.
For Renee Hess, the founder of Black Girl Hockey Club, opening doors for Black women in sport has become a life mission. The goal of empowering young Black women in hockey, and creating representation within the sport are BGHC’s primary concerns. Someday, the hockey world may shift from seeing Hess as an advocate, to a builder worthy of Hall of Fame recognition herself. Through BGHC’s scholarship program, Hess and her team are helping Black women across the globe reach new levels, and break barriers within the game.
These three represent the past and present of Black women in hockey, but they aren’t the only impactful players in the game. Here is a list of 20 Black women making hockey history of their own:
- Blake Bolden - The first Black woman ever hired as a National Hockey League scout, Bolden joined the Los Angeles Kings in 2020. Prior to that, Bolden was part of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association’s Dream Gap Tour and was the first Black player to play in the NWHL, as well as the first Black player ever drafted into the CWHL. The former NWHL defensive player of the year, and Boston College alumni finished her playing career in Switzerland.
- Sarah Nurse - The current Team Canada member has quickly become one of the most recognizable names and faces in hockey. With an Olympic silver and World Championship gold to her name already, the Wisconsin Badgers grad skates regularly with the PWPHA. Her presence in moving women’s hockey toward financial sustainability, and speaking out against racism in the sport have been paramount in hockey’s social movement. In 2020, her likeness was used by Mattel and Tim Hortons in creating a limited edition Barbie doll, creating an iconic image of women of color in hockey for youth across Canada.
- Mikyla Grant-Mentis - The first Black player to win the Premier Hockey Federation’s Most Valuable Player Award, Grant-Mentis earned the honor in 2021 after a spectacular rookie season with the Toronto Six. She was also named the league’s Newcomer of the Year. As the face of North America’s top women’s professional league, Grant-Mentis’ impact, and representation can’t be overlooked.
- Kelsey Koelzer - At only 26-years-old, Koelzer is already the head coach of Arcadia University, an NCAA Division III team. When the Princeton graduate was hired by Arcadia in 2019, she became the first Black woman to become a head coach in NCAA hockey history. On the ice, Koelzer was an NWHL and PWHPA star, but her real impact continues to grow off ice. Koelzer has served as a member of the NHL and NHLPA Female Hockey Advisory Committee, and as an advisor to the commissioner on diversity, equity, and inclusion for the NWHL.
- Kim Davis - No woman in hockey holds a higher standing in the NHL than Davis, the league’s Executive Vice President, Social Impact, Growth Initiatives & Legislative Affairs. Davis has become the voice for the NHL on many occasions, including during Black Lives Matter protests, and as an advocate for the NHL’s mantra of “Hockey is for Everyone.” She was vital in launching the Player Inclusion Committee and making diversity training for players mandatory in the NHL.
- Erica Ayala - Ayala fills an important space in the hockey landscape as a Black voice in hockey media. A broadcaster for PHF games, Ayala has also emerged as a prominent writer covering women’s hockey and the WNBA for The Athletic. Her coverage will also appear at the 2022 Olympic Games. Ayala is the host of the Founding 4 Podcast and a writer for The IX Newsletter, and is a graduate of Elon University where she played softball.
- Tracey McCants Lewis - The Deputy General Counsel and Director of Human Resources for the Pittsburgh Penguins, McCants Lewis plays an important role for one of the NHL’s most successful franchises of the past decade. A professor of law at Duquesne University School of Law, McCants Lewis was named one of 28 Black executives to the Executive Leadership Academy class at Carnegie Mellon University in 2020.
- Delvina Morrow - Another Pittsburgh Penguins staffer, Morrow is Pittsburgh’s Senior Director of Strategic Community Initiatives and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. Originally working in the technology sector in Pittsburgh, Morrow joined the Penguins in 2019 working in community engagement, and helped to develop the Pittsburgh Penguins DEI Action Plan.
- Robin Lee - When Robin Lee joined the Nashville Predators in 2013, she already had years of experience in professional sport. Today, Lee is Nashville’s Senior Director of Corporate Sponsorship Service climbing the ranks several times. Prior to joining the Predators, Lee worked for the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an Account Executive, and as a Sale Representative for the NBA’s Miami Heat.
- De'Aira Anderson - When you see an announcement from the Seattle Kraken, there’s a good chance it came through De’Aira Anderson. Anderson was hired by the NHL’s 32nd franchise as the team’s Corporate Communications Manager. Anderson earned a Masters in Public Relations from Syracuse University, where she was also employed as the Communications & Operations Director for Syracuse’s men’s hockey team. Anderson worked in a similar role for the Syracuse Silver Knights, a professional indoor soccer team, and interned during her undergraduate studies with the University of Pittsburgh’s men’s hockey team managing their social media platforms.
- Jaz Miley - Founder of the Hockey Players of Color (HPOC) Movement, Miley is as influential off the ice as on. She serves as the CEO and Director of the Puerto Rico Ice Hockey Association, where she also captains the women’s National team, who won the 2021 Amerigol Latam Cup. Miley played NCAA Division III hockey at Finlandia, and ACHA hockey at Liberty University, and is currently playing in France. Her role in growing the game in Puerto Rico will continue to open doors for women of color in the game.
- Saroya Tinker - Saroya Tinker is the voice hockey needs. Period. A defender for the PHF’s Toronto Six, and a Yale University graduate, Tinker has been a crucial advocate not only for women’s hockey, but for anti-racism initiatives in hockey. The 2021 recipient of the NWHL’s Denna Laing Award for perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey, Tinker has her own mentorship program, and has been involved in Black Girl Hockey Club.
- Stephanie Jackson - Tasked with changing the game of hockey in the United States at the grassroots and national level, Jackson has served as USA Hockey’s Director of Diversity and Inclusion since 2019. Jackson holds two Masters degrees, one in Business Administration from Notre Dame, and the other in Social Work from Howard University. Prior to USA Hockey, Jackson worked in the diversity and inclusion department at Nike. She’s been pushing for harsher penalties for racist slurs on the ice, and is building a safer, more inclusive game from the ground up.
- Kiana Scott - When the hockey history books open, Scott’s name will be there. She was the first woman hired as a scout by an Ontario Hockey League franchise. Scott joined the International Scouting Services’ Mentorship Program before catching the eye of the OHL’s Erie Otters, who hired her in 2020 at only 20-years of age. Scott, who played hockey in Barrie, Ontario growing up is incredibly young to be a history maker, which makes you wonder, what will she achieve next?
- Hewan Teshome - Another Seattle Kraken hire, Teshome has served as a Senior Vice President and General Counsel of the Kraken since before the team had a name or players. Teshome holds a bachelors degree in journalism from New York University, and a law degree from Stanford University. Teshome is also the Senior Vice President and General Counsel for Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle.
- Miriam Thimm - The first Black woman to ever play for the German National team, Thimm also served as the head coach for the Women’s Bundesliga Team Düsseldorfer EG. In 2021, Thimm worked as a Diversity Delegate for the DEL’s Futures camps, and is part of the National Hockey League Coaches Association’s Female Coaches Development Program.
- Tunisha Singleton - Dr. Tunisha Singleton is a Media Psychologist, and is the President of Black Girl Hockey Club’s Board of Directors. Singleton also co-chairs BGHC’s Leadership Development Committee, and works to bridge social gaps between the game of hockey and new fans to the sport. Her role as a guiding force within BGHC will have a direct impact on the next generation of Black women in hockey.
- Sheila Johnson - The only Black woman to hold ownership of an NHL franchise, Johnson was the co-founder of BET. She is an owner of not only the NHL’s Washington Capitals, but also the NBA’s Washington Wizards, and WNBA’s Washington Mystics. In 2019, the Women's Sports Foundation recognized Johnson with the Billie Jean King Leadership Award.
- Nina Rodgers - Hired as an assistant coach for the women’s hockey team at Dartmouth University, Rodgers has already made history. While Kelsey Koelzer was the first Black woman to serve as a head coach in the NCAA, doing so at the Division III level, Rodgers was the first Black woman to coach at the NCAA Division I level when she was hired in 2021. Rodgers played NCAA hockey winning two National championships with Minnesota before transferring to Boston University, and also played in the NWHL. Rodgers is another person taking part in the National Hockey League Coaches Association’s Female Coaches Development Program.
- Krysti Clarke - Hired as the GM of the PHF’s Toronto Six in 2021, Clarke took a non-hockey route to the league. When hired by the Six, Clarke was also the manager of York United FC of the Canadian Premier League. Her soccer background spanned from playing at Miami University, to serving as a student assistant coach for both Miami and McKendree University where she earned a Masters in Business Administration.
Next In Line
Hannah Aslup, Sydney Kinder, Jade Iginla, Laila Edwards, Sophie Jacques, Avery Mitchell, Asiah Taylor-Walters, Jennifer Costa, Tamara Thierus, Chayla Edwards, Rayla Clemens, Kiersten Goode, Crystalyn Hengler.