Daniels hiring a major victory for True North Scout hopes to be a role model for young women, Indigenous youth
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It was an under-the-radar signing by the Winnipeg Jets, one that certainly won’t show up on any stats sheets. But the hiring of Sydney Daniels to be the club’s new college scout is nothing short of a major victory for the organization.
Daniels, 27, is the first woman to join the True North hockey operations department. The Saskatchewan product is also Indigenous and hopes her story can serve as an inspiration for others in an industry that has long been dominated by Caucasian men.
“It means so much to me, for so many different reasons,” Daniels told the Free Press on Thursday afternoon as Jets training camp got underway at Bell MTS Iceplex. “It’s such an incredible honour. I hope to be somewhat of a role model, just so young women can see that their options are more broadened now. And I just want Indigenous youth to see they can do anything they want to.”
Daniels has been an assistant coach with the women’s hockey program at Harvard since 2018 after wrapping up her own playing career earlier that year with the Boston Pride. She enjoyed great success behind the bench, especially last season when the Crimson Tide won the women’s Beanpot, Ivy League and ECAC Hockey Regular Season Championship. Daniels also played four years at Harvard, scoring 59 goals and adding 27 assists in 126 games between 2013-17, serving as captain during her final campaign.
“I was ready to branch out and learn from some great hockey minds and challenge myself in terms of growing my knowledge of the game and being around different people who could bring me new perspectives and outlooks,” Daniels said of how discussions with the Jets began earlier this summer.
General manager Kevin Cheveldayoff knew Daniels well, having played against her father in the Western Hockey League for several years. Cheveldayoff, who is from Saskatoon, skated for the Brandon Wheat Kings from 1986-90. Scott Daniels was a member of the Kamloops Blazers, New Westminster Bruins and Regina Pats during that time, eventually being drafted by the Hartford Whalers in 1989 and going on to play 149 NHL games over six seasons with three different teams (Hartford, Philadelphia, New Jersey).
“It’s such an incredible honour. I hope to be somewhat of a role model, just so young women can see that their options are more broadened now. And I just want Indigenous youth to see they can do anything they want to.”–Sydney Daniels
“(Cheveldayoff and Daniels) have always stayed close friends. Growing up in Saskatchewan, it’s almost a little fraternity they have of being Sask boys,” Daniels said with a chuckle. It was Jets assistant GM Larry Simmons who ultimately interviewed and hired her.
“He has really taken me under his wing, and I’m so excited to learn from him,” she said.
Daniels is close with Manitoban Brigette Lacquette, a true trailblazer in the sport who became the first First Nations woman to play hockey for Canada in a Winter Olympics (2018) and was hired last winter as a scout for the Chicago Blackhawks.
“She was the first Indigenous woman to break that barrier. We’re very close and constantly talking. She was a great resource for me to give me a sense of how her experience went which made me want this experience more,” said Daniels.
She’s seen the challenges of getting more diversity and inclusion in hockey up-close, having run hockey camps along with her father for youth in Saskatchewan for many years.
“Being Indigenous, it’s what I hold closest to my heart. I think there’s just not enough opportunity for our Indigenous youth to excel, unlike other people around them,” she said.
“One thing that drew me to the Winnipeg Jets was the work they do for Indigenous groups. The fact they have land acknowledgements at the beginning of their games, it’s incredible. I’ve already had some awesome conversations with members of True North in talking about what programs they have and learning more about that side as well. First and foremost, I’m here to be a hockey scout. If I can help or guide any way I can, given my knowledge and familiarity with Indigenous people, that would be an incredible added bonus for me.”
Cheveldayoff said bringing someone as talented as Daniels on board was a no-brainer.
“She’s been someone that I’ve watched over the course of time, grow as a player and grow on the coaching side. I have a little bit of history with her family. So it’s a great opportunity for her to get on the college scouting side of things,” he said Thursday.
“She’s been someone that I’ve watched over the course of time, grow as a player and grow on the coaching side. I have a little bit of history with her family. So it’s a great opportunity for her to get on the college scouting side of things.”–Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff
Daniels will be based out of Boston — “which is an incredible perk” — and largely frequent NCAA games in the northeast. There will also be trips to Colorado, Minnesota and Michigan, among others, mixed in.
“We just want to make sure we have a pulse on everything,” she said.
The Jets have dipped into the college waters plenty of times with great success. From recent first-rounders such as Rutger McGroarty and Chaz Lucius, current stars such as Kyle Connor and Connor Hellebuyck, to previous core players such as Jacob Trouba and Andrew Copp, it’s been a major part of the draft-and-development mentality around here.
Daniels will work with current college scout Mark White, who will take on more pro scouting duties. The Jets have also added former Toronto Maple Leafs scout Tony Martino to handle the USHL ranks, and longtime Florida Panthers scout Jari Kekalainen as an additional European scout.
“I’m just trying to come into this and soak up and learn as much as I can,” said Daniels. “But also make sure that I’m always focused and dialed in on my own role and my own job and doing the best I can within my role to help the team. First and foremost, I want to do my job, my role, and do it really well to help this organization.”’
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.