Things just keep getting better and better for hockey fans in Toronto.
The Toronto Six kicked off free agency by announcing the return of captain Shiann Darkangelo and workhorse Emma Greco. Then starting goaltender Elaine Chuli and forward/defenseman Taylor Woods announced their returns to the club. Shortly after, as the dominoes continued to fall, news broke that reigning MVP Mikyla Grant-Mentis wanted to run things back with her hometown club.
Now, another splash, as up and coming defensemen Saroya Tinker makes her return to the Greater Toronto Area, bringing an outspoken voice and youthful energy along with her.
Hockey fans may attach Tinker’s name more so to what happened off the ice in Lake Placid rather than the tournament itself, with the incident in question being the league’s ongoing conflict with Barstool Sports. If you don’t remember the full happenings of that incident, this handy article from Deadspin should bring you up to speed.
Tinker, a rookie and one of the newest players in the NWHL, was quick to point out that the league wanted nothing to do with Barstool Sports and their decorated history of misogyny and racism. She joined a long list of athletes and media personnel that called out Barstool for the precedent they’ve established throughout the sports landscape.
While that tweet alone put Tinker’s name on the map, she made her presence felt in other areas of the NWHL community, openly supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and Black Girl Hockey Club, winning the league’s Denna Laing Award for perseverance and being one of the six recipients of the NWHL’s Foundation Award.
So, with a prominent role already carved out for her off the ice, Toronto Six fans should get to know Saroya Tinker beyond her ability to speak the truth, as she could very well be among the best defensemen in the league once she finds a consistent opportunity.
Drafted fourth overall in the 2020 NWHL Draft by the Metropolitan Riveters, Tinker suited up for just three games during the Lake Placid tournament before the Riveters were forced to withdraw due to health and safety protocols regarding COVID-19. Still, three games in an already shortened season is a feat that’s impressive enough for a rookie.
Playing four full seasons at Yale in the NCAA prior to joining the NWHL, Tinker packs plenty of potential and while her numbers may never jump off the scoresheet, the role that she’s able to play, both on and off the ice, is already quite valuable to any team.
So, we know she can play. But when will she make an impact on the ice? And that question, at least at the moment, is incredibly hard to predict. The Six have already re-signed shutdown defender Emma Greco and the master of versatility Taylor Woods, who can be inserted on the blueline and up front as well.
On the assumption that Lindsay Eastwood joins the growing list of returnees, that leaves a few open spots for the taking. Kristen Barbara missed some time in the bubble this past season (although she could easily be re-signed as well) and the future of Megan Quinn remains uncertain. And while there aren’t many “insiders” breaking news as it happens, signing announcements are usually broadcasted by the teams, leaving widespread speculation up to fans and journalists alike.
Regardless, this could be quite the opportunity for Tinker. Should Toronto have any challenges re-signing the rest of their free agent targets, a roster spot is Tinker’s to lose come training camp.
And while this is still just speculation, Tinker was quoted in the latest Toronto Six press release saying “I might be missing out on a few things in terms of fans and my family from Toronto”, meaning two things are certain: one, despite the media and attention it receives, Toronto is becoming a beacon for its hometown players, and two, the Six now have a player who’s eager to contribute, arguably more than most.
The Toronto Six have already done a phenomenal job attracting home grown talent and playing with a certain level of swagger, despite being the newest team in the league. After falling short of an Isobel Cup Championship in their inaugural season, fans should expect nothing but the best from the team as they enter season number two. And with Saroya Tinker’s return home, it’s clear that the Six value not just skill on the ice, but leadership and bravery off the ice as well.
Only time will tell to see what role Saroya Tinker carves out for herself.
Stay tuned to Venus Sports for all the latest Toronto Six news.