After dropping the bombshell that she would not be re-signing with the Metropolitan Riveters on Locker Room Talk, it was announced this morning that Saroya Tinker has signed with the Toronto Six.
Like so many other women’s hockey players from Canada, Tinker has played the majority of her competitive hockey in the United States — four seasons with the Yale Bulldogs and one (albeit short) season with the Riveters. Despite the success that Tinker has had, the opportunity to return home for her second season in the league was an alluring one.
“I really loved seeing the Toronto Six [in Lake Placid] and realizing that’s my hometown and realizing I might be missing out on a few things in terms of fans and my family from Toronto,” said Tinker in the T6 press release announcing her signing.
“I think just being back on home soil, I get to play for my 11-year-old brother. He’s definitely a big fan of mine and he’ll be able to come to all my games,” she said.
Playing in Toronto will also allow Tinker to work more closely with the girls that she works with through Saroya Strong, her program that provides free mentorship for BIPOC women in sport.
“I’m also honestly really looking forward to being closer to my mentorship girls and being able to help them from a personal standpoint and not have to talk to them via Zoom. But again, playing on home soil, I don’t think there’s anything better than that and I’m looking forward to developing more fans and having my hometown and my family be able to watch me play.”
We didn’t get to see Tinker play much in Lake Placid as the Riveters had to leave the tournament after three games as a result of positive COVID-19 tests, but what we did see paints a pretty good picture of the kind of player she is. Strong puck handling gives her a strong passing game and an ability to set up plays, but where she really excels is as a truly defensive player. Evaluating defenders is always going to be difficult because their contributions don’t often show up on the scoresheet. Case in point: Tinker had just a single assist in Lake Placid and 12 points (1G, 11A) in her senior year at Yale.
That doesn’t mean that defenders aren’t an integral part of the team. Tinker is consistent and responsible with the puck and has a knack for breaking up the play of the opposing team.
To use Tinker’s talents fully, the Six need to put her in a position where she can be a truly defensive defender. It would be in the Six’s best interest to give her a chance to really make an impact on the penalty kill.
Any team would be lucky to have Saroya Tinker, both for the things she does on the ice and the things she does off of it in the community. In addition to her mentorship work, Tinker is a prominent and outspoken voice, advocating for social justice and speaking about the importance of education, diversity, and inclusion in hockey.
Tinker is one of only a handful of Black players in the NWHL. With Mikyla Grant-Mentis re-signed for Season 7 in Toronto, the Six will have signed two Black women to their roster in 2021-22, as well as the first Black head coach in NWHL history in the recently hired Mark Joslin. In a sport that is so overwhelmingly white, that kind of representation matters.