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Export date: Mon Apr 22 5:44:59 2024 / +0000 GMT

Peel Region-raised NCAA Star and NWHL MVP Mikyla Grant-Mentis thriving with PWHL Ottawa




By Jim Stewart

These are exciting times for Peel Region's Mikyla Grant-Mentis.

The 25-year old forward, who starred with the NCAA Merrimack College Warriors and was named the NWHL's MVP in 2021 before signing the richest contract in PHF history with the Buffalo Beauts, is skating for PWHL Ottawa in a professional sports league that has captured the public's imagination.

13,361 fans cheered PWHL Minnesota to a 3-0 win over PWHL Montreal at the Xcel Energy Center on January 8, 2024 establishing a new record for attendance at a professional women's hockey game.

The gathering in Minnesota shattered the record set by Grant-Mentis's squad on January 3, 2024 when 8,318 fans, including more than 2,000 season ticket holders, jammed into TD Place in downtown Ottawa to take in their game versus Montreal. The PWHL Ottawa forward described this memorable and historical on-ice experience.

“It was amazing and it was so loud, I couldn't hear myself think. The arena was sold out and it was a surreal feeling to see and hear so much support by our fans.”

Grant-Mentis has enjoyed her first five weeks in the new professional league.

“I'm enjoying the skill level. This is a way more competitive league. Anybody can beat anybody on any given night.  It's unfortunate that some players had to quit playing the game since there was only room for six teams this year, but the games are sold out, we have great players from all over the world in the league, and we have developed a great connection to the community of Ottawa.  Another nice thing about playing in Ottawa is that we practice and play our games at the same rink.” 

Being in a stable league is refreshing for Grant-Mentis whose final season at Merrimack and a pro season in the NWHL were deeply affected by the Pandemic.  She soldiered her way through the restrictions of the Pandemic as a member of the Toronto Six and noted that “playing with only eight people in the rink at a time was tough on the players and coaches and COVID ended up ruining the 2020-21 season.

When the Pandemic started, I was in my final year at school. We were told we had four days to get off campus. We drove home and didn't bring anything because we were told that we would return to complete the season in March and April. We didn't complete the season. By May, I was bored and I started working with my mom at FedEx. At least we were able to get out of the house.”

When she got out of the house that spring, Grant-Mentis joined her mom's FedEx softball team and they played most of their games in Milton.

Grant-Mentis's athletic versatility is evident in the sports that she chooses to play. The former Brampton Notre Dame basketball player and volleyball player also played ball hockey and golf during the off-season when she wasn't skating for the Mississauga Chiefs, Toronto Six, or the Buffalo Beauts.

Grant-Mentis has wide-ranging experience as an Elite, collegiate, and professional hockey player and is impressed by the foundations of the PWHL.

It is backed financially by billionaire Mark Walters who owns the Los Angeles Dodgers and the six-team league began play on January 1 to much fanfare when Toronto hosted New York at the Mattamy Center—tying the league's inaugural game to the site of venerable Maple Leaf Gardens.

The other Original Six franchises are located in New York and Boston.

Grant-Mentis's collegiate days were spent thirty minutes outside of Boston in North Andover, Massachusetts. 

The high-scoring forward, whose 117 points in 137 games established her as the all-time career points leader with the NCAA Warriors, also played four years in the PHF with the Toronto Six and Buffalo Beauts.

After winning the NWHL's Most Valuable Player award in 2021, she signed a one-year $80,000 contract with the Beauts that made her the highest-paid player in league history.

Grant-Mentis, who has tallied three assists in her first six games with Ottawa, is not only witnessing history in the nation's capital and the other five Original Six cities, but she's also had time to reflect on her brilliant collegiate career at Merrimack College.

Her fondest memories at the North Andover, Massachusetts school was the passion for sports exhibited by New Englanders.

“It's amazing how the locals got behind their sports teams. When I was there, the New England Patriots won the Super Bowl. It was nice to jump on the band wagon with them.”

Grant-Mentis also noted that one of the best results of playing NCAA hockey was, “the people I met.”

“I have three friends from College that I will have for life.”

She enjoyed her four years as a student-athlete at Merrimack.

“Our coaching staff and academic advisors made it easier so we could play hockey and complete our studies. It was the kind of balance that was easy to manage. I liked to be continually busy between playing hockey and completing my homework.  I was able to complete a degree in Criminology with a minor in Psychology.”

When we asked the graduate of Notre Dame CHS in Brampton what advice she would offer to current high school and OWHL players who wanted to follow the same career path she has taken to US College and the PWHL, the former Mississauga Chief encouraged them to persevere.

“Don't give up on a dream.  It will take a lot of extra effort, but it will be worth it.  Do whatever you can do to be the best possible version of yourself.”

Grant-Mentis observed that the best possible version of herself was made possible by the helpfulness of her mom and dad, Sandra Grant-Mentis and James Mentis.

“My mom and dad and my two brothers— Marquis and Tre – were very supportive.  From Day 1, they were behind me.  They came to see me play at Merrimack to support me and they watched me play for Toronto and Buffalo, too. My dad kept pushing me when I was down about my game or didn't feel like carrying on.”  

She also credited some good-natured but keen competition with her twin brother, Marquis, as a motivating factor that contributed to her athletic success.

“I was spurred on by my desire to beat my twin brother at any sport we played.  We were always competing, especially when we played on the same team.  I always wanted to score more goals than him.”

It's this kind of competitive spirit that has marked Mikyla Grant-Mentis's remarkable hockey career as the Merrimack Warriors' all-time leading scorer, the PHF's MVP as the leader of the Toronto Six, the league's highest-paid player with the Buffalo Beauts, and a current founding member of PWHL Ottawa.

It's the kind of Canadian success story to be emulated for aspiring hockey players in Peel Region and across the nation.

Post date: 2024-02-15 11:56:50
Post date GMT: 2024-02-15 16:56:50

Post modified date: 2024-02-15 11:56:53
Post modified date GMT: 2024-02-15 16:56:53

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