Sydney Daniels is taking her new position with the Winnipeg Jets day-by-day and she is trying to stay present as she adapts to the world of the NHL.
Daniels got word in July that she would be the next scout for Winnipeg’s hockey team – making her the first woman to take on the role in the organization’s history.
“It was so relieving and exciting to get the call,” said Daniels. “I couldn’t be happier.”
Daniels and her family have long been rooted in hockey; her dad played 149 games in the NHL, spending time with the Hartford Whalers, Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils, and before that, her grandfather played at St Michael’s residential school in British Columbia.
Daniels played five years at Harvard University and also notched one season with the Boston Pride of the National Women’s Hockey League.
Following her playing career, she has been an assistant coach with Harvard since the 2018-19 season.
Now, she is scouting the pro level for the Jets, which includes attending some NCAA games as well.
“I couldn’t imagine a better position for me to start and get my feet wet and learning how things are kind of done. Some of these rinks that I go to I have played on a ton and I know the men’s and women’s staff at some arenas. That level of comfort that I am able to have in this new position is kind of relieving and gives me that extra boost of confidence when I go into the rink.”
She said when she first started the role in September, she had to take a moment to adjust to the fact that she is the only woman in a front office full of men, but she quickly realized that the focus is all on hockey.
“The first 30 minutes when we all sat down together and we started talking about the team and hockey and I just kind of the sense of overall relief of being like ‘Oh, it’s just hockey.’ It’s the same sport if you are a man or woman…it became less of a focal point every second I spent with them because we were all just so focused on the task at hand and the overall goals.”
Now that Daniels is at the top of one of her passions, she said she wants to continue working on her other passion, which is helping Indigenous people and youth and being someone who can create opportunities for them.
She and her family are part of the Mistawasis Nêhiyawak Cree Nation in Saskatchewan, which is located approximately 70 kilometres west of Prince Albert.
She said being able to work for the Jets and True North Sports and Entertainment is a dream come true for both of her passions, as she notes the organization has a pulse on the Indigenous community in Manitoba.
“I think visibility is so incredibly important and I think the visibility I am allowed to have within the Jets organization and Brigette (Lacquette, with the Chicago Blackhawks). Visibility allows our youth and allows the world to see truly what women and Indigenous women are capable of,” said Daniels.
She added she doesn’t want her representation to stop at just being an example for the next generation, but she wants to be available for others if they need advice or help to get where they want to go in the hockey world.
“Yes, I can be this visible person in this incredible role, but I also want to be accessible to the youth and accessible to communities. I want to empower and I want to use my position to help others to reach their goals.”
Since taking the role, she said she has received a lot of support from her family, adding all accomplishments are a “team win.”
The chance to be part of the NHL is even more significant for Daniels as she recently lost her grandfather due to COVID-19.
“I think it provided everyone a bit of a glimmer of hope, in the sense that we have been sad and grieving for a while,” she said. “The first exhibition game that I went to with the Jets was in Edmonton, that’s about a six, seven-hour drive from where my family lives. I think I had seven or eight family members drive there, just to watch the game and be there for me.”
Moving forward, Daniels said she just wants to live in the present for a bit and take in everything that hockey has to offer her, despite saying she considers herself a goal-setter.
“I am just trying to just stay as present as possible right now. I still have so much to learn, so much to do within my role. My focus is just executing my job as best as I can and being as helpful for the Jets organization. So I try not to think too far ahead because I don’t want to miss out or not fully enjoy the work I am doing right now.”
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