The National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) continues to make strides each and every day to inspire young female hockey players to continue their play at a professional level. Former Yale University Bulldog and current Metropolitan Riveters defenseman Saroya Tinker is certainly no exception to that.
Hailing from Oshawa, Canada, Tinker optimizes what it means to be a dedicated athlete, both on and off the rink. Despite her busy high school schedule, Tinker was still able to attend one of the world’s most prestigious universities and get drafted relatively high in her respective draft class. In addition to that, she represented Team Canada for their ice hockey team in St. Catharines, ON (2016) and also their ball hockey organization in the Czech Republic (2017). I had the pleasure to interview Tinker for my podcast “Locked On Devils”. The interview touched on her amateur, international, and professional playing career.
Listen to the full conversation: Locked On Devils – “200th Episode Special: An Open Hockey Discussion (With NWHL Player and Yale University Alum Saroya Tinker)
A Talk With Saroya Tinker
Question: You went to high school at Monsignor Paul Dwyer Catholic School, and you were actually MVP [for hockey] during your tenure there. However, you were an eight-sport athlete: you played badminton, basketball, curling, lacrosse, soccer, track, frisbee, and obviously hockey. Where did you find time to do all that?
Saroya Tinker: Outside of school, my parents and I never really watched TV, never really were on social media, or the internet in that capacity. So, it was always either; do your schoolwork, or go outside and play. With that, I always found out that I was interested in multiple sports, and definitely did well in all of them. So, I continued to do that, but hockey was my main sport. I always made time for other things including my education and learning other aspects as well…I have always been a competitive person. I do not like to lose, at all. I want to be the best in everything I do.
Q: You played all four years at Yale University. You had 32 points in 122 games played. You were known for your physical and shutdown style of play. What was your college experience like in terms from a hockey standpoint, and also an off-the-rink standpoint?
ST: Personally, I did struggle with the hockey side of things. Whether that was being included with my time or feeling like I wasn’t playing to my full potential. Before I got to Yale I was definitely a big rushing defenseman, definitely played very offensive. But when it came to Yale, I realized that I needed to play more defense in terms of how our team was structured. That’s how I became the big, shutdown physical defenseman that I am now, still with that offensive ability in my back pocket. Hockey was definitely a struggle for me just fitting in with my team, and getting to know my teammates and things like that.
My experience outside the rink was incredible, and nothing I could compare it to. Just because the people I met, the friends I made, and Yale was so fun for me. More so outside of the arena with everyone on campus, rather than inside the arena…Although we didn’t win any national championships, or tournaments, or anything like that, I think my main goal and achievement was being able to implement change within our team’s culture.
Q: You were drafted fourth overall by the Metropolitan Riveters in the 2020 NWHL Draft and you signed your first professional contract a little later. I know with the pandemic it’s been hectic, but how has your experience playing with the National Women’s Hockey League been like so far?
ST: It’s been great. I think that my teammates specifically have made an effort to get to know me and figure out why I’m using my platform for what I am using it for. And finding ways to implement change within the game that are more accepting for all communities. For me, playing professionally does come with a whole new challenge because you have another platform, and another piece to represent. I take it upon myself to be that trailblazer and be that role model for the younger girls behind me.
Overall, Tinker is certainly a great advocate for the hockey world, and is big on trying to incorporate change within the sport and respective fan base. She recently won the Denna Laing Award for her continued perseverance within the community and is continuously making impacts both on and off the rink. The main lesson that should be taken away from this interview is that goals, aspirations, and change is indeed plausible, however one should also know how to time manage in order for those dreams to become a reality.
Trey Matthews is currently the play-by-play announcer for the hockey programs at Adrian College. Interestingly, he is also one of the only full-time black hockey play-by-play announcers in the entire country. He has been featured in USA Today, USCHO, & others for his line of work. In addition to that, he’s also the host of a podcast show called Locked On Devils. He first began writing for his high school’s paper at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School & Academy. Aside from hockey, he also covers the Los Angeles Lakers (NBA) for Belly Up Sports.