It’s no question Mikyla Grant-Mentis has positioned herself as one of the top female professional hockey players – a brand new record-breaking contract with the Buffalo Beauts, the all-time leading scorer for the Merrimack Warriors women’s ice hockey program and the first black player to win the Premier Hockey Federation’s Most Valuable Player Award. No matter the accomplishment, her childhood nickname has followed her throughout her journey in hockey: Buckey.
“I was the youngest of three, so I would get all the hand-me-downs, not the best equipment … I had to wear my dad’s old helmet which was a Jofa helmet … and it’s not the nicest thing. So, the first day I put it on, my twin brother was like, ‘you have a buckey helmet.’ And literally from four years old until now, everyone calls me Buckey in the hockey world,” explains Grant-Mentis.
Growing up playing hockey with her twin brother, Grant-Mentis may not have necessarily known that a future career in professional hockey was even an option. “When I was younger and playing with my twin, I didn’t really know much about women’s hockey or even going to college and getting a scholarship. I was kind of just doing it for fun,” she recalls.
But the competitive spirit of siblings certainly paid off in the end. “It was a legit competition every single day for both of us. I had to be better than him, but he was always better than me, so I had to try ten times harder than him. I’d workout extra with my dad, go on the ice more … Switching to girls hockey was a little bit easier than boys, so my dad basically made me continue all of the stuff I was doing in boys hockey to further my career. It did me well,” reflects Grant-Mentis.
Her hard work turned into a four-year career at Merrimack College, a Division I NCAA program, something Grant-Mentis looks back on fondly. “Just being there with goalie Léa and my other friend Chloe, we just had the best time ever. Even though we didn’t win many games, and we were probably in last place most of the time, it was still a great four years, and I wouldn’t change anything.”
Continuing her hockey dream, Grant-Mentis finished out the 2019-20 National Women’s Hockey League season with the Buffalo Beauts before signing with the Toronto Six, and ultimately landing back with the Beauts with a recently signed record-breaking contract that would make her the highest-paid player in Premier Hockey Federation history. It may not all be as glamorous as it seems, though, with the grind of being a professional women’s hockey no small task.
“I start work at 5:15 in the morning, I’m up at 4:30am. Then I work until 2:00pm … then I go to work out from 2:00pm to 4:00pm. In season, I would have to go to my team’s workout at 6:00pm, so I’d have two hours in between to get a little snack, take a nap – whichever one was in demand that day,” chuckles Grant-Mentis. “We’d have workout from 6:00pm to 7:30pm, we’d do video with the team from 7:30pm to 8:30pm, then practice 8:45pm to 10:00pm. Then I’d pretty much go home, sleep and do it all over again the next day.”
Despite accomplishing so much in her young 23 years, Grant-Mentis knows there is still more out there. “I think everyone’s dream is to play for Team Canada and play for your country. I think that’s something I’m still striving for now. I’m putting in the work and I’m doing extra because of the big signing; everyone keeps tell me that I now need to perform better than I ever had. With that coming into my head … I keep working out, going on the ice, doing what I need to do … hopefully get a look from Team Canada, get a try out … whatever I have to do to get there.”
Grant-Mentis has one piece of advice for athletes that she lives every day: never give up. “I’ve been overlooked basically my entire life, where it’s Team Canada, Team Ontario … I’ve been overlooked so many times that I would just tell people to never give up if you have a dream or an aspiration to make it somewhere,” she says. “My next dream, hopefully, is to make Team Canada, so I’m just putting in as much work as possible to get myself there. Just don’t give up even if people bring you down in any way. Just keeping pushing.”
Tune in to Episode #127 of The Athletes Podcast to hear more about Mikyla Grant-Mentis’ journey growing up playing hockey with her twin brother, her experience as a female and racialized player in the sport, and why it is important to appreciate your youth.