Black Girl Hockey Club, Saroya Tinker start scholarship for Black women hockey players

Black Girl Hockey Club (BGHC), a woman-founded community space for Black women in hockey, has teamed up with professional hockey player Saroya Tinker to raise money for young Black women athletes.

Together, Tinker and BCHC founder Renee Hess have raised over $30,000 to build a scholarship fund for hopeful Black women hockey players.

Tinker knows firsthand how difficult it is to establish yourself within the hockey realm as a Black woman. Even after graduating from Yale and becoming a National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) player for the Metropolitan Riveters, she still says she felt like she was lost in the shuffle.

“Throughout my career, I felt like I wasn’t being seen and I wasn’t being heard, regardless of how good I was or whether or not I spoke up,” Tinker told In The Know. “But now I think that through this [partnership], this is just proof we are being seen and we are being heard. And for me, I think that brings me a lot of joy.”

Less than 5 percent of the National Hockey League is made up of players of color, and that number is even lower for the NWHL. In fact, it was only in 2015 when Blake Bolden became the first Black woman to play professional ice hockey.

Hockey is a geographically isolated sport, meaning many public high schools don’t offer it as an option. Some players have to attend a prep school to play at a high level, or sometimes women have to play on a men’s team. Plus, the sport is expensive — skates, padding, gloves, helmets, sticks and lessons can rack up thousands of dollars.

“I never expected our little fan club to grow into such a movement,” Hess told In The Know. “It’s wonderful to see the community being built, to become more connected to other Black fans and players and people who are working in hockey. It’s wonderful to have that unification.”

BCHC was started by Hess in 2018, with its biggest initiative aimed at addressing the financial gatekeeping that comes with playing hockey. Hess wanted young Black girls to have the option of playing in a travel league, and to play for as long as they wanted — whether or not they wanted to go pro later in life.

It’s the type of environment Tinker wished was around when she was growing up — and it’s why she immediately signed on to join the scholarship committee.

“I did have a following and a whole new platform to reach out to after being drafted,” Tinker said. “I wanted to have more purpose behind it than just people watching me play because, again, I am playing for more than just myself now. I’m playing for the girls.”

“I was very surprised at how willing people were to donate and how enthusiastic people were about it,” Tinker said about the GoFundMe surpassing $30,000. “I’m excited to continue to help grow that program.”

“We’re going to be able to facilitate a culture shift in hockey that is, you know, incredibly necessary and needed at this time,” Hess said. “And who better to lead the way than Black women?”

You can donate to the Black Girl Hockey Club here.

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