Saskatchewan

Treaty 6 First Nations woman 1st to join NHL's Winnipeg Jets as collegiate scout

Sydney Daniels is joining the NHL's Winnipeg Jets as a college scout, but the 27-year-old member of the Mistawasis Nehiyawak First Nation has already enjoyed a long hockey career.

Sydney Daniels moves up to the pros after being captain, coach of Harvard Crimson

Sydney Daniels, right, chases after the puck in 2015 in Minneapolis. Now that her collegiate playing days are over, Daniels is kicking off a new career as a college scout for the NHL's Winnipeg Jets. (Hannah Foslien/The Associated Press)

The Winnipeg Jets have hired its first First Nations woman from Treaty 6 territory in Saskatchewan. 

Sydney Daniels, 27, is joining the National Hockey League team as a college scout, but the woman from the Mistawasis Nehiyawak First Nation has already enjoyed a long hockey career.

Daniels grew up in the United States for most of her life and attended Harvard University, where she was captain of the Harvard Crimson hockey team. When her playing career in the National Collegiate Athletic Association ended, she became an assistant coach with the team.

Now, she's thrilled to be closer to her First Nation as she settles in with the Jets.

"I'm still pinching myself every morning that I wake up," Daniels said during a press event Monday morning. "It has been kind of a whirlwind from the moment my last position ended to kind of being here in Winnipeg. 

"There are these moments I think where I'll just kind of sit back and take a deep breath and kind of be present and be like, 'Whoa, I am working for a professional NHL hockey team and I'm trusted by the staff. I'm treated like one of them!"

Daniels is one of three scouts the Jets hired on Wednesday.

"It's a wild shift going from, you know, my comfortable position at Harvard [to] making this change to be in the NHL surrounded by the best of the best. What has helped me through this whole process has been my family," Daniels said.

Daniels will do the bulk of the NCAA recruiting for the Jets, meaning she will continue to be primarily based in Boston "just because that's kind of where one of the biggest hubs is for college hockey. I already have recruiting trips planned out to Minnesota and Wisconsin and Columbus [Ohio] … just to make sure I'm doing the best I can in having a pulse on it."

Daniels, left, seen playing for the Harvard Crimson, has become a college scout for the NHL's Winnipeg Jets. (Hannah Foslien/The Associated Press)

Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Mark Arcand says because Daniels is a woman in a male-dominated organization, the tribal council is thrilled with her upward trajectory. 

"We support and are extremely proud of Sydney as a proud member of Mistawasis and most importantly a First Nations woman," Arcand said. "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."

Inspiring First Nations women

Daniels admits she knows she's a trailblazer of sorts, specifically as a woman in a high-level job in the world of hockey. She pointed to an NHL game she recently attended. 

"If any little girl was there last night in Calgary, she was able to see me in the press box with all of these males … completely surrounded by males," Daniels said. 

"I hope that she could just see me and say, 'Cool, I want to be that one day.' And so if I could make just one impact on one Indigenous youth, that would be absolutely incredible for me."

Daniels acknowledges how important her heritage is to her, especially now that she's in the new NHL role. Her father, Scott Daniels, played six seasons in the NHL with Hartford, Philadelphia and New Jersey.

"I love hockey. I'm so passionate about hockey and the game and I've learned it from my father who learned it from my grandfather who was in residential school. So hockey and my Indigenous culture are so interwoven, so strongly braided within … that it's hard to separate those two things," Daniels said.

"So just as much as I am passionate about hockey, I am also passionate about helping and empowering and providing opportunities for our Indigenous youth to grow and succeed."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laura is a journalist for CBC Saskatchewan. She is also the community reporter for CBC's virtual road trip series Land of Living Stories. Laura previously worked for CBC Vancouver. Some of her former work has appeared in the Globe and Mail, NYLON Magazine, VICE Canada and The Tyee. She holds a master of journalism degree from the University of British Columbia. Follow Laura on Twitter: @MeLaura. Send her news tips at laura.sciarpelletti@cbc.ca

now