T here’s a memory Mikyla Grant-Mentis can’t get out of her head. It’s planted in her mind like a signpost, marking the moment her path veered one way instead of the other, and was never quite the same. She was 12 years old, sitting in the car with her mom, Sandra, making the type of trek the two of them had made hundreds of times before. The streets of Brampton, Ont. flew by the window to her right, and somewhere out the windshield ahead sat a rink stocked with opponents and teammates, with freshly slicked ice, waiting for Grant-Mentis to join the fun. Soon, they would turn into the lot just like they always had, she’d lug her hockey bag out of the back, and that familiar electricity of anticipation would begin to crackle inside her as she stepped through the arena’s doors.
But on this particular trip, they took an unfamiliar turn. Before that lot appeared, her mom pulled the car over to the curb, looking not quite right. She started retching, Grant-Mentis looking on worriedly. Eventually, Sandra managed to collect herself. She pulled the car back into the road and resumed the drive. But before they could settle back into the usual routine of their pre-game ride, the nausea overwhelmed her again, and the car returned to the curb.
Not long before that day, Sandra had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Hours before that tumultuous drive to the rink with her daughter, she was sitting in a hospital room awaiting her first chemotherapy session, trying to explain to her doctors that there was no way she was letting her treatment take precedence over the most important thing in her life. “I went to the doctor and I said, ‘Okay guys, my daughter has a tournament. How long is this going to take?’” Sandra recalls. The doctors stressed that she needed rest after the treatment, that she should go home and lay down. Sandra wasn’t having it. “I’m like, ‘No, Doc. I’m getting the chemo, going to school, picking up my daughter and bringing her to her hockey game,’” she says. “‘That’s what I’m going to do. I just need to know — will I make it there in time?’”
Thinking back, with 12 years to reflect on that day, Grant-Mentis marvels at that strength. “We had to pull over a couple of times so she could throw up, because she was sick from the chemo, but all she wanted was to get me to my hockey game,” she says. It was her mother’s unrelenting determination — that day in the car and in the months that followed as Sandra battled her way through to the other side of her cancer diagnosis — that changed things for Grant-Mentis. Watching her mom refuse to wilt, Grant-Mentis felt she owed it to her to adopt the same attitude. “I knew that I had to be the best,” she says. “I had to make sure I’m doing this for my mom, because she was doing so much for me, so much to get me to where I am and where I wanted to be back then. It was like I was playing for her and my hockey was saving her, because it was giving her something to do, to not think about what she was going through.”
Speaking with Sandra about those difficult months back in 2010, I tell her what her daughter said of that drive in Brampton, how it gave her the will to push herself, to reach higher, and Sandra goes quiet. “It’s funny, because she’s never—” she starts, her voice trailing off for a brief moment. “Mikyla’s a very quiet person, she doesn’t really talk about personal stuff a lot. So, for her to even say that about me, and how she felt, that’s incredible. It kind of brings tears to my eyes.”
It’s these two foundational aspects of who Grant-Mentis is that have led her to where she’s at now. On one hand, a willingness to do anything necessary to become the best. On the other, a tendency to do her thing quietly, stoically — even if it means reaching lofty heights while the spotlight shines somewhere else. At 23 years old, Grant-Mentis has already established herself as one of the most dynamic talents in her sport. After a sterling NCAA career that saw her finish as her program’s all-time leading scorer, she was then named her league’s MVP in her first season as a pro. And this season, she’s turned in an equally impressive sophomore effort, amassing the second-most points in the Premier Hockey Federation and guiding her Toronto Six to the second-best record in the league. Step back and take it all in and it seems Grant-Mentis’s name should be up in lights — the hometown prodigy who turned the country’s only professional women’s franchise into a juggernaut. She should be one of Toronto’s biggest stars. She should have her name in white letters on a red jersey adorned with Canada’s maple leaf, a medal draped over top. Yet the flowers haven’t come, nor have the national-team invites.
But just as she isn’t one to boast or bare her soul, Grant-Mentis isn’t one to complain. She lets her skill on the ice speak for her. And come what may, she keeps pushing forward in the same way she always has — focused on the work, focused on that pursuit of greatness, until she simply becomes undeniable.
F rom the very beginning, hockey was a family affair in Grant-Mentis’s house. Twenty minutes west of the rink she now calls home as the Toronto Six’s offensive dynamo, she and her twin brother Marquis got their start on the ice side-by-side at two years old. But their dad James is quick to proudly point out they were already watching the sport when they were in diapers, their older brother, Tre, already in hockey gear when the twins were still babies.
Thinking back to those early years on skates, Grant-Mentis remembers two things most clearly — Marquis beside her and the boards in front of her, getting closer and closer. “My brother knew how to stop and I didn’t know how to yet. So we would go, go, go, and then the only way for me to stop was to run into the boards, because that was literally the only way I could stop,” she remembers with a laugh. “That’s my earliest memory of hockey.” Back then, she was the only girl in the family, surrounded by brothers and cousins who were all being given their first spots on pint-sized teams, and her idol in the red jersey. “My dad played Team Canada ball hockey, so we would always watch all his games. I wanted to be just like him,” she says. Her parents, though, weren’t as keen. They had dreams of their daughter being a dancer. But having already gotten a taste of that feeling of flying across the sheet, of her blades cutting lines in the pristine white surface, Grant-Mentis, once again, simply couldn’t stop.
Eventually, she protested enough to earn a compromise of sorts. “Her mother said, ‘You take this one dance class and you’ll be able to play hockey,’” recalls her dad, James. “She took the one dance class and she goes, ‘Okay, I’m done with dance. It’s hockey from here.’”
There was just one problem. “We only had the one vehicle, so they had to play on the same team,” James says. “We couldn’t go to three different spots.” So off four-year-old Grant-Mentis went alongside her brother, the pair starting out together in boys’ hockey. They were already inseparable by then — even Grant-Mentis’s name came from her twin, says Sandra. Spend any time around anyone close to her daughter, and you won’t hear ‘Mikyla’ dropped once, only ‘Buckey.’ The nickname, her mom explains, was coined by Marquis as the twins were breaking in the latest of a never-ending stream of hand-me-down equipment during those first couple spins on the ice. “There was this one helmet. I think it was a JOFA helmet that she got, and it had a dent in it,” Sandra remembers. “And her twin brother’s like, ‘Mikyla, that helmet is so buckey. It’s so bucked up.’ And it just stuck. She’s been called Buckey since she was four.”
Chummy as the duo was, after the first couple years suiting up on teams together, Buckey found herself eyeing a path out of her brother’s shadow — a tough task given she was a stay-at-home defender, her brother a glitzy forward. “You can’t let your twin brother be better than you, it just doesn’t work like that,” Grant-Mentis says. “So I kept pushing and pushing to basically be at the same level as him.” James saw the twins’ paths begin to separate when it came to putting in those extra hours off the ice. “The kids used to train with me out in the fields and do all the hills, do all that stuff — she was always, always working,” he says. “When her brother wasn’t working, she was, always. She’d be taking shots in the garage, she’d be doing wrist curls and all this stuff to make your shot better. She was always working on being the better player.” It didn’t take long for that fire to start showing up in team practices, in games. “She was very focused, never really let other things get her off her game,” says Marquis, a pro now himself with the Federal Prospects Hockey League’s Columbus River Dragons. “She was always on time, did every drill hard, never cheated a drill. She just always worked for what she got.”
That life-altering car ride through Brampton with her mom wasn’t the only significant turn Grant-Mentis’s path took when she was 12 years old. It was that year she decided to head out on her own and make the jump to girls’ hockey after almost a decade playing alongside Marquis. And amid all that change, she figured it was time to throw in another one. “On all the boys’ teams she played on, she was very quiet. … She didn’t say much, so the coach just put her on defence and she accepted it,” says James. “But as soon as she made the switch over to girls’ hockey, she said, ‘Dad, I’m a forward.’ She’s played forward ever since.”
After a few years in the new role, her offensive chops had begun to flourish, her name starting to appear near the top of the list of scoring leaders in Ontario’s Provincial Women’s Hockey League. Still, she found herself in the shadow of other teammates yet again. “Everybody used to come out to watch everybody else,” James says. “Daryl Watts, Lindsay Agnew, Emma Maltais, Team Canada this and that — everybody would come out to watch these other girls, and then they would be like, ‘Oh hey, this girl’s pretty good too,’ and they’d watch her. But she was getting no offers from colleges.
“And then, she was in Grade 10, and Merrimack [said], ‘We love you. We want you here.’”
I t was all those years of being overlooked that led Grant-Mentis to Merrimack College, a small university just north of Boston. “At the early stages, they were really the only team looking at me,” she says. Erin Hamlen, Grant-Mentis’s eventual coach at the school, remembers well the first time she saw her star recruit play. Her assistant coach at the time, Brent Hill, had been in Ontario scouting players, and relayed a message back to Massachusetts: “You gotta come up and see this kid. She’s a special hockey player.” So Hamlen got on a plane and flew to Ontario to see for herself. She had her answer within minutes of sitting down in the arena. “I think she scored four goals that game,” says Hamlen. “It was literally an absolutely-no-question-about-it ‘Yes, I want this player.’ … I can remember walking in the rink and just watching her put one puck after another in the net.” She’d have been hard-pressed to guess Grant-Mentis was only a few years removed from switching positions, so effortless was the winger’s command of her position. “That was really one of my first impressions of Mikyla. The dominance that she had of the game at that time, when she wanted to, was unparalleled in a lot of ways against the players she was playing with,” the coach says. “She just had the ability to change the game.”
At the time, Merrimack’s women’s hockey program had only existed for one year, complicating the decision. But Grant-Mentis saw it as a positive — it meant she would actually get to play, not sit on the bench watching a bunch of seniors rack up ice time. And it meant she could make some history. “The thought of, kind of, building a legacy there and building up a program from the bottom up, that really put me onto it,” she says.
In her final season before making that jump to the college level, the rest of the hockey world began to notice what Hamlen and Hill had already seen. Suddenly, the bigger names came calling. “She wasn’t getting any other big offers until her last year of junior. She was the second-leading scorer in the league, and then, you know, Ohio State comes, New Hampshire comes, and they want her to break her commitment to Merrimack,” James recalls. “And she says, ‘No. I committed there. They were there from Day 1. I’m staying here.’”
Soon, Grant-Mentis was draped in Merrimack’s blue and yellow, standing under the bright lights of Lawler Rink. “When the full team was there and we all got our stuff, it was kind of a surreal moment,” Grant-Mentis says. “Like, I didn’t think I would make it this far.” It took time to settle in. For all the prolific scoring she’d shown a year prior, her first month in college passed without a goal coming off her stick. Still, Hamlen could see her adjusting to the new challenge, making her presence known. “What I remember most is just her ability to slip through players almost at will,” says Hamlen. “She had an ability to create offence out of nothing.”
Another month passed with that goose egg in her goals column, but when she finally broke through with her first snipe, Grant-Mentis made it count. “It was an overtime game winner on our homecoming weekend,” she remembers. “It was actually a huge goal. And I’ll remember that forever. I had to switch my fishbowl over to a cage because it was too foggy. There were seconds left. And my coach was like, ‘Buckey, if you go out there and score, I’ll get you [ice cream].’ I was like, ‘Okay, you got it,’ and I went on and I scored — it was the best thing ever.” By the end of that first season, Grant-Mentis was Merrimack’s leading scorer. By the end of her last on campus, she was tallying 20 goals and 33 points in 33 games, while setting the all-time scoring benchmark for the program with 117 total points over her college run.
The most important growth that came over those four years wasn’t in how many points she was able to stack up, though, but how she approached the transition into the spotlight after all those years in the background. “It’s a hard position to be in, at a younger age especially,” Hamlen says. “She had to learn to be a leader when she didn’t always want to be out of the shadows. And that took a lot for her, to put that on herself and to have us put that on her, in terms of the responsibility of being a leader both on and off the ice. … She had to kind of learn the ups and downs of what it’s like to be not unknown.”
For Grant-Mentis, that added burden meant she simply had to push harder. Leaders didn’t settle. “I realized that I had to put in more work than what I was doing,” she says. “So, even though we practised every single day, played on the weekends, I would do extra skill sessions with my coaches. The goalies had skill [sessions] and I’d even go out and shoot for that, just to learn different things, figure out different ways to score. And I think that’s what really got me consistent with continuously scoring, continuously producing for the team. Even when I came home when school was out, I would still be on the ice twice a week. I would still work out every day. Just to make sure that I’m doing everything to get better.”
Away from the game, there was little relief — she ramped everything up there, too. “Because she was a student, she couldn’t work off school premises. So she cut the grass, shovelled the [snow], she did scorekeeping,” says Sandra. “She had to work, then they had to go to practice, then she had class, and then she taught a religion class. She had all these things going.”
Focused only on working through that daily flurry, Grant-Mentis wasn’t sure what lay beyond college, her dreams to that point consisting wholly of NCAA hockey and, one day, the Olympics. She got a quick education on the rest of the scene in February 2020, when the PHF’s Buffalo Beauts came calling, offering a chance to go pro. “It was honestly a surreal experience — I literally felt like an NHL player,” she says. “I had to leave school Thursday, fly out to Buffalo, we practised in Buffalo on Friday, then drove to where we were playing for Saturday-Sunday, and then Sunday night we’d have to fly home to get back to school on Monday. It was a crazy three weeks that we did it for. But it was definitely fun and definitely showed me a lot — it showed me how much better I needed to be to compete in that league.”
If she needed any more motivation, her mom offered up another example of limitless dedication as Grant-Mentis prepared for her first pro game. “I had surgery the Friday morning when she was going to Buffalo,” Sandra recalls. “She said, ‘Mom, you know, you don’t have to come. You just had surgery.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, I’ll see how I feel.’”
Really, though, there was no chance Sandra would stay away. “Listen. My daughter is going to be playing, I am going to be watching her,” she continues. “And it was amazing just to see her. And she scored a goal. I can’t even.
“I think if you looked in the dictionary and found ‘Proud,’ you’d see my face, just smiling.”
T he navy blue stands at York University’s Canlan Ice Arena are well-stocked with onlookers as Grant-Mentis steps onto the ice. It’s mid-March, and her club’s lining up for the second period opposite the Boston Pride, hoping for a win in the penultimate home game of the year but trailing by a goal. The Six have donned red, white and black for the affair, adopting the national colours as their league’s only Canadian squad. Their opponents look quintessentially Boston in black and yellow.
Eight and a half minutes into that middle frame, Toronto’s Breanne Wilson-Bennett collects the puck on the left wing in the neutral zone, and carries it calmly into Boston’s end. Already nipping at the Pride’s blue line, Grant-Mentis cuts laterally for a moment to avoid going offside, then darts to the net once she’s let loose again. Four yellow jerseys converge around one red, as Grant-Mentis finds herself with a moment’s space in front, looking left, awaiting the pass.
There’s one particular piece of equipment the hometown phenom carries out each game that differs from any other player’s in the arena — her Verbero stick that glints under the fluorescent lights, the lower end of the shaft coated by Grant-Mentis in metallic gold spray paint. Here, drifting towards Boston’s net, as Wilson-Bennett whips the puck towards her, she puts that Midas touch to use, flipping her blade over and jabbing at the pass, causing the puck to ramp up off her backhand, over the netminder’s shoulder, and into the top corner.
If you’d only just stepped through the arena doors at that moment, you could spot the Grant-Mentis cheering section quicker than you could figure out who Toronto was playing that night. The rows and rows of loved ones who pack those blue seats to cheer on their Buckey every game are as quintessential to the Six experience as anything else that happens in the arena. “She has a game at home and now she has like 25 to 50 fans here,” says James. “She loves it. You know, she has a little bit of a cult following now.”
Adds Sandra, who was on her feet for the tying goal, texting words of encouragement for her daughter to see in the locker room later: “They didn’t really get to see her as much playing out in Merrimack. But now that she plays for the Toronto Six, every home game we’re there — grandmothers, great grandmother, great grandfather, everybody’s there watching her.”
More than anything else, it was the chance to play in front of that wave of support that convinced Grant-Mentis to sign with the Six in the first place. “I still can’t believe how many of them show up to every single game,” she says. “To see so many of my mom’s side come out to the game, not really know what’s happening but still cheering me on it, it’s huge. That’s what I was thinking when they announced Toronto as a new team.”
While it might have been the potential impact her return could have off the ice that drew Grant-Mentis back to this side of the border, it’s been her impact on it that’s defined her homecoming. Playing her first full season in the league with Toronto — a truncated one due to the pandemic — she put up five goals and nine points in six games in 2020-21, adding a multi-point affair in the Six’s lone post-season appearance. The sums paced the league, her goals total unmatched and her nine points tied for the top mark. The sterling performance earned her a trio of awards by season’s end: MVP, Newcomer of the Year, and a Foundation Award for efforts to help grow the game.
A long way from those seasons spent as wallpaper for other, flashier names, Grant-Mentis didn’t take the achievement lightly, the MVP honour cementing her shift to centre stage. “It’s amazing. It’s like something you dream about, but you never really think it would happen,” she says. “It’s happening to me and it’s crazy to think about.” Her family was equally thrilled — though far more shocked, as Grant-Mentis kept the news to herself, wanting to preserve the surprise for the online awards ceremony, leading to plenty of background hoots and hollers as she did her awards-nights interviews.
For her dad, the weight of the moment was about more than just his daughter’s ascent. “My side of the family has a deep history in hockey,” says James. “My great-grandfather played in the [Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes] back in Nova Scotia, and all the way up from there.”
It didn’t go unnoticed back East that Grant-Mentis was carrying on the family legacy in the sport, her MVP nod making her the first Black player to earn the award in her league. “It’s amazing. I mean, I had aunts and uncles calling from Nova Scotia,” says James. “I was so excited for her. Just all the hard work she’s put in and her dedication to the game, how much she loves the game, you know? I was over the moon.”
It’s been more of the same for Grant-Mentis this season. Once again, the Six’s best finished among the PHF’s most prolific scorers, amassing the second-most points and goals in the league, her 30 points in 19 games surpassed only in the campaign’s final game. With Grant-Mentis leading the charge, the Six finished with the second-best record in the league heading into the 2022 Isobel Cup Playoffs, similarly holding the top spot until the regular season’s final day. The sophomore effort served as another step forward, offering a chance to prove she can produce with the best over a longer stretch of games. And off the ice, the 2021-22 season brought yet another career-altering change — the opportunity to learn from one of the best to ever do it, Angela James. The Hall of Famer joined the team’s bench alongside new head coach Mark Joslin ahead of this past season — and went on to join the organization’s ownership group in early March — gifting Grant-Mentis as knowledgeable a mentor as any young star could ask for.
James had seen Grant-Mentis on the ice once before. The Toronto native went to school with Grant-Mentis’s father back in the day, and remembers seeing a 10-year-old Buckey puttering around with her dad. But when the pair first took the ice together for practice with the Six, it was a different familiarity that struck her. “She kind of reminded me of myself a little bit,” James says. “How I used to always like to challenge the coaches and challenge other players. … She had a uniqueness of herself.” The two butted heads at first, says Joslin, that shared tendency to challenge those around them requiring some time to settle and mesh. But they found a balance that worked, and Grant-Mentis found a new level. “I think because of that, Mikyla is just off the charts right now. I mean, she’s just on fire. She’s setting records,” says Joslin.
She’s also showing the hockey world the most advanced, dominant version of her game yet, blending her own natural skill with a bit of that old-school relentlessness instilled by James. “She’s got that extra gear that just comes out of nowhere,” Joslin says. “Her shot and her shot release are pro, it’s remarkable — the first time I saw her shoot, I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ … But I think something that sometimes goes unnoticed is her hockey IQ, her awareness. She sees the ice as good or better than anybody.”
It’s another step on the same path Grant-Mentis has been walking for years. The difference now, says Angela James, is that the spotlight isn’t a privilege anymore, it’s part of her duties as a leader in this game. “I think that Mikyla has come a long way from the start of the year to now. … She doesn’t like to be the centre of attention, she just wanted to kind of do her own thing. I try to tell her that with greatness comes responsibility,” she says.
“It’s not just about the team, the girls in the league — it’s also about the young girls that are watching you.”
T he daily schedule that allows Grant-Mentis to do what she does isn’t for the faint of heart. The on-ice success, the off-ice respect, it doesn’t come without the absolute onslaught she endures each week: 5 a.m. shifts working full-time at FedEx, regular team practices, two workouts a week with the team before those practices, two or three workouts with her own personal trainer before those workouts, and the all-important game nights to try to put it all together. And yet, somehow, it’s lighter than what it used to be. “I start a little later now — before I was starting at 3 a.m.,” she says. She runs through a typical day: “So, I start at 5 a.m., I finish around two o’clock. Then after two o’clock I go work out, outside of my hockey team, ‘til 4 p.m. Then I would go relax at a teammate’s house for an hour and then we’d have to go to the rink for our team workout, and then practice, and then that was my day. Then I basically have to do it all again the next day.”
“It’s incredible,” says Joslin. “She never misses a workout. She never misses a practice.” While teammates and coaches might be awestruck by Grant-Mentis’s dedication, for her family back home, it’s just Buckey being Buckey. “I don’t know if she always thought she had to prove herself to her brothers, that she can be a hockey player, she just always wanted to do that extra,” says Sandra. “You know, extra skating, extra workout, always doing anything to make herself better. She’s always been like that.”
Cut to the core of it, and all those extra hours, all those gruelling workouts preceding gruelling workouts, so much of it has been in pursuit of one singular goal. And, as it turns out, it’s the one thing that’s eluded Grant-Mentis, even as she’s emerged as one of the game’s most promising talents. “She always knew what she wanted and what it took to get where she wanted,” says Sandra. “And where she wants to go is to make Team Canada.”
It’s a question fans of the Six and those who cover the PHF have wondered aloud many times before — why, after making waves in college and dominating in her young pro career, Grant-Mentis hasn’t gotten, at the very least, a look from the national program. In the early goings of her ascent, as a rookie leading Merrimack’s squad in scoring, there was some interest, says Hamlen. The coach got calls from Hockey Canada about her star young gun — she guesses that the program’s hesitation at that point stemmed from Grant-Mentis’s still-green defensive game. Over the course of the rest of her college career, though, as she remained an offensive force, Grant-Mentis was pushed to close that gap, to develop her two-way play. And she did. “She was playing wing and we moved her into the middle almost to force her into defensive habits,” Hamlen says. “And she became, actually, one of our most defensively responsible centres… somebody who you could trust in all situations.”
Still, the calls didn’t come during those college years. “She was so disappointed,” Sandra remembers. “Because, this is something you’re working hard for, you know? You do your extra this, your extra that, you do all these things, and you still are not being recognized by Team Canada. She was like, ‘What is it that I have to do?’” In response, she did what she knew — she ramped everything up once she moved on to the pro level, adopting the brutal schedule she lives now. “MVP. Newcomer of the Year. And still no,” says Sandra. “What else can you do for them to see that? To give you a chance?”
If nothing else, Grant-Mentis has had years to prepare for the disappointment. “I mean, she was the second-leading scorer in the league in junior and didn’t even get on Team Ontario,” her dad says. “But she just continues to work hard and puts up numbers and just does things to be positive. She says, ‘They can’t keep me down forever. They’ve got to come call.’”
Until that moment comes — if it does come — Grant-Mentis is keeping her attention on the task at hand, on being the best at where she’s at. And in her corner, she has one of the greatest talents to ever take that route as proof of its merit. “She’s definitely a skilled enough player to play for Team Canada. But, you know, Team Canada has a certain box of player that they want, and possibly Mikyla doesn’t fit into that box,” says Angela James. She would know, of course. While the Toronto native reigned supreme as one of the sport’s elite talents during her own time on the ice, and won her fair share of gold medals wearing the maple leaf, the national squad was also cause for one of her greatest disappointments, James having been famously — and controversially — left off Canada’s ’98 Olympic squad. “It’s not always the best players that are going to be on Team Canada. And I can say that for myself, but I could probably say that for a number of other players that have missed opportunities out there,” James says. “In my opinion, all Mikyla needs to do is just keep doing what she’s doing and silence the critics. And as far as her future goes, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a star for the Toronto Six in this league and tearing it up. Not one thing.
“Like I’ve told her, you can only control the things that you can control. Don’t try and control other things.”
Grant-Mentis has taken the lesson to heart, it seems. “I think what I’ve learned from her is you don’t have to make every [team] to be the best,” she says. “You know, it does suck that I haven’t gotten the chance, but that’s not really what I’m focused on. I’m just focused on how to make my team better and how to make myself better and how to perform to the best of my ability. So, although I haven’t gotten any looks really from Team Canada, that’s not my biggest goal in life. There’s many other things that I can do that will live up to the same hype, and at this point in my career, yes, that is something I’m still striving for, but I’m trying to be the best at where I am right now. I’m trying to be the best at Toronto Six and the best in the PHF. So that’s all I’m focusing on. … I just need to know my potential, know my worth, and that’s it.”
It’s what Angela James has been trying to teach Grant-Mentis since she first joined the Six. Whether the young phenom’s current path takes her to that Olympic stage or not, the only way forward is focusing on the bigger picture, on the responsibility that comes with her greatness. And as immense as her impact has been up to this point, as far-reaching as it could be down the line, in the end, the Grant-Mentises’ journey in the game will always be a family affair.
And in that sense, she’s already seen her impact brought to life.
“I have a niece, she’s five years old,” says Sandra. “Two years ago, Buckey gave her hockey gear, and she’s like, ‘Ew, what’s that, auntie?’ I’m like, ‘Mikyla gave that to you.’ ‘No, I want a dress!’
“Now we have an ice rink in the back. She’s got her skates on and she’s skating, and she’s scoring, and she’s like, ‘Mikyla! It’s a goooal!’ I’m looking at that, I’m thinking, two years ago, this kid wasn’t even thinking hockey. And now we have to buy her skates because she wanted skates like Mikyla. She wanted a hockey stick like Mikyla. I don’t know if Mikyla realizes what she’s accomplished.”
It is, in fact, the only reason she does all she does. Why she’s thrown herself into becoming a dominant force for Toronto, for the PHF. It’s not just for gold medals or MVP awards. It’s so the next Buckeys, dreaming their dreams in backyard rinks all across the country, don’t have to give quite so much when their time comes.
“I just want to grow this league so that younger girls don’t have to wake up at 5 a.m. to go work at FedEx and then go play hockey,” Grant-Mentis says. “I’m hoping they will be able to just play hockey for a living, and that’s it.
“So, that’s my biggest goal. Just trying to build this league as best as possible. To get that for the younger generations.”