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Mistawasis Nêhiyawak's Daniels blazes trail for women in hockey

Sydney Daniels graduated with a psychology degree from Harvard.

SASKATOON — Sydney Daniels’ joining the Winnipeg Jets organization is not only welcome news to the Mistawasis Nêhiyawak, a Cree First Nation, where she is a citizen, but also an inspiration to other girls — Indigenous or not.

The 27-year-old Daniels, who became the first female from Treaty 6 Territory to be an operations staff of an NHL team, was hired by the Jets early this week and is assigned to look for talent in the college ranks as part of a 20-member scouting staff.

Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Mark Arcand, in an earlier statement, said they support Daniels all the way and they are proud that a member from Mistawasis became part of an NHL organization.

“Most importantly, [she is] a First Nations woman. She is truly a role model for our youth. Not just her skill and dedication to the sport but her academic accomplishments have helped make her the person she is today.”

Daniels grew up in the United States for most of her life and became a trailblazer in her field being an Indigenous person. She is a First Nation person who broke barriers.

“She's the second indigenous woman to get hired by an NHL team based on her hockey career and we just wanted to make it known that every goal is reachable if they have the support to do it,” said Arcand on Daniels, who graduated from Harvard with a psychology degree in 2017.

“At the end of the day, this shows that First Nations people can contribute at the highest level in Canada and the world, and we're very proud of whom she's becoming and how she's leading us First Nations.”

Daniels, after graduation, joined the Crimson’s women’s ice hockey team as an assistant coach in 2018 after playing one season with the Boston Pride in the then National Women’s Hockey League, now the Premier Hockey Federation.

Her love for hockey could have been due to her father, Scott Daniels, being a former professional ice hockey player whose NHL career spanned nine years with three different teams — the Hartford Whalers, Philadelphia Flyers and the New Jersey Devils.

Daniels handled Harvard’s offensive and power play units in the 2021-2022 season where she helped the Crimson to win the Women’s Beanpot, Ivy League and NCAA Division I Eastern College Athletic Conference regular season championships.

Arcand, who said that investment in women’s hockey should also be looked into, added that despite hockey being a male-dominated sport, a lot of girls are now playing it and a lot more will be attracted to it after the trailblazing moment caused by Daniels’ hiring.

“We can see the difference in hockey from male to female ... I think we've got to focus on investment that they are equal. When I look at this, why does it always to be male on the hierarchy?” said Arcand.

“Why can't the matriarchal system in our Indigenous way, which is the woman leading the way? I think these levels are the best way to show by example that they're equal to men. And I think we've got to make that investment for women, especially First Nations.”

He added that Daniels being part of the Jets organization is also good for Indigenous women and girls. “We hear all the stories about murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, and here's an opportunity that just opened up the door for other First Nations girls.”