Mikyla “Buckey” Grant-Mentis is part of the new generation of women changing the conversation around women’s hockey. A forward with the Buffalo Beauts in the PHF (Premier Hockey League), she recently became the highest paid player in the league, making $80,000 for the 2022-23 season. She enters her third full pro season as the league’s reigning Most Valuable Player. The Beauts open their season November 5.
As a woman in hockey, what are some challenges you faced and how did you approach them?
Growing up with a twin brother, my parents didn’t want to split us up, so I did start out playing on boys’ teams. That was my first challenge in hockey. I had to fit in with the boys but also try and be as good as them and many people didn’t like that. I would never make the top teams because I was a girl. The only way I would make a top team is if they wanted my twin brother. Then they had to take me as well. That’s how I had most of my success at a younger age.
But once I got out of the male realm and switched over to girls’ hockey, it was an easier path for me. I was able to use my skill to get me places. When I went to an all-girls team it was just more inclusive. It didn’t matter who you were or what your last name was. If you’re coming to this team, for the seven months you’re playing together, you’re a family. That was the change from playing with the boys because the boys were so competitive. Everyone always wanted to be better than the others. Whereas females, we lifted each other up.
What do you think is the biggest barrier in driving the visibility of women’s sports?
I think the biggest one is just trying to break down that male stereotype that women can’t play hockey. We have our own skills. You guys have your own skills. It’s totally separate but we are just as good as you in so many ways. We need to show everyone that, yes we are female hockey players and we can perform just as well as the men if you give us the chance and the opportunity. If you don’t want to watch, keep scrolling.
What keeps you in love with hockey?
I love this question! For me, it’s the family culture that you build. I don’t know if it’s just a thing with women’s sports, but every time I come to a new team, I feel like I’m joining a new family. Here in Buffalo, we met maybe two or three weeks ago, and it feels like I’ve known these girls for so long. We know everything about each other. We’re all on the same page. We all just want to do well, and we pick each other up. I feel every year that happens for me. That’s what keeps me in the sport. No matter if we win or lose, I just have a great time. I still have friends from every team I’ve played on. We develop such a positive team culture as women.
What excites you about where the Premier Hockey Federation is this year?
The league is really going forward from when I first started in it. When I played my first year in Toronto, I was paid very minimum. You literally had to have another job. You couldn’t live off it, whereas now I don’t have to have another job. That’s a big change in just three years.
We have great investors coming into the league, and that’s obviously why we can get paid more every year. And then there are small things. Having our games on TV like TSN or ESPN+ just makes it easier for people to watch. That’s what brings the money in – people watching the game. I think what’s going to be built over the next couple of years will be even more amazing.
What’s one way that sports and business could work to build a more inclusive culture?
Promote everything and everybody. If the Buffalo Sabres posted something positive about us, just even good luck for the start of the season, that shows they’re supporting us and then maybe some of their fans would support us as well. Give women’s hockey visibility.
I skate with a couple of NHL players in the summer, and all of them had no idea there was a women’s professional league. Literally, the day I told them, they all went back and looked me up and were like, “Oh my god, this is amazing! I can’t wait to follow you all year.” It literally just takes two people looking it up, them telling their friends and it cascades from there.
What projects have you most excited right now?
The thing that really makes me super excited is that I’m coaching a U-18 girls’ team in Brampton, Ontario. That made me love hockey even more, coaching these young girls. They’re really listening to me. If I told them to do something on the ice, they would say, “Yeah! Yeah! Ok!” and then literally do it the next shift. That’s what brings me joy. Seeing these girls listen to me and be inspired by me, makes me want to keep pushing the envelope in my playing career, keep pushing forward so they can play in the same league as me.
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