On Wednesday, the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) hosted their annual award ceremony virtually on Twitch. The award ceremony was hosted by the Florida Panthers’ Digital Reporter, Katie Gaus, and was sponsored by Discovery. With the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic, the award show, like the 2021 NWHL season, pivoted and delivered a memorable experience in an COVID safe event.
The NWHL award show is similar to the National Hockey League’s annual award show. The winners of the NWHL’s core awards were chosen by a selected group of media and broadcasters that were hand chosen to represent the six NWHL markets and a few contributors from outside of the NWHL. The NWHL has established awards that display the excellence that the NWHL players exhibit on the ice and off the ice in their respected communities.
One of the first awards of the night was the Denna Laing Award. The Denna Laing Award was formerly known as the Perseverance Award but was renamed after Denna Laing, who won the NWHL’s first Perseverance Award after suffering a serious spinal cord injury. The award is awarded to the player who exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to her sport. The 2021 recipient of the Denna Laing Award was Metropolitan Riveters defensemen, Saroya Tinker. Tinker was a shutdown defender for the Riveters in her first season in the league, as well as, using her platform to speak out against racism and social injustice in North America. During her time in the Lake Placid bubble, Saroya fundraised over $30,000 for the Black Girl Hockey Club’s scholarship fund. Saroya Tinker used her platform to advocate for what she believed in as well as being an incredible contributor on the ice for her team.
Saroya Tinker was also awarded the Riveter’s Foundation Award. Each team in the league has one player chosen for the NWHL Foundation Award. The NWHL Foundation Award is granted to a player on each NWHL team who applied the core values of hockey to her community and helped grow and improve the culture around hockey. Tinker was chosen for her role in being a leader for young female hockey players of colour and for making hockey a more inclusive sport. Amanda Leveille, goaltender for the Minnesota Whitecaps, was the recipient of the Whitecaps’ Foundation Award for her work as a goaltending instructor for young goaltenders. Mikyla Grant-Mentis from the Toronto Six was awarded the Six’s Foundation Award for her work with the Greater Toronto Area’s Kidnetix Kidz Association that provides opportunities for disadvantaged families in the GTA.
Grace Klienbach from the Whales’ was awarded Connecticut’s award for her work with young hockey players at her hockey clinic, 14:94. Boston Pride’s Mallory Souliotis was awarded the Pride’s Foundation Award for her contribution to the Epilepsy Foundation of New England. Souliotis donated and matched all of the proceeds of her jersey and shirsey sales to the Epilepsy Foundation. Carly Jackson rounded out the NWHL Foundation Award recipients’ group for her work with young hockey players and her support of individuals who face marginalization.
The Pride’s Souliotis and the Beauts’ Jackson were also the top votes, alongside Mikyla Grant-Mentis, in the NWHL’s online vote for the Three Stars of the Season. NWHL fans were able to vote online for their choices in an online poll.
The NWHL’s defender of the year went to Boston Pride’s Kaleigh Fratkin. Fratkin had an impressive season where she was tied for the scoring lead as well as had 15 block shots and was +14 during the bubble season. She put up two more points in the Pride’s two playoff games with one of them being the primary assist on the game-winning goal of the Isobel Cup Final. Kaleigh Fratkin became the first blueliner to be named the NWHL’s defender of the year twice in her career; she was defender of the year last year as well.
The NWHL’s goaltender of the year, this year, went to Amanda Leveille. She became the first goalie to earn Goaltender of the Year honors twice in her career in the NWHL. Leveille is the NWHL’s all-time leader in wins, saves, and shares the all-time lead in regular season shutout. During the season, she was able to post a .936 save percentage and had a winning record of 3-1-0 in round robin play. Leveille lead the Whitecaps to the Isobel Cup Final where they eventually fell to the Boston Pride.
The main award of the night, the NWHL’s Most Valuable Player award went to the Toronto Six’s Mikyla Grant-Mentis. Mikyla became the first Black player to be named the Most Valuable Player of a professional women’s hockey league in North America, as well as, becoming the most decorative player in one single NWHL season. Grant-Mentis was one of the six Foundation Award recipients, one of the Fans’ Three Stars of the Season and was the NWHL’s newcomer of the year. A rookie to the NWHL this past season, Grant-Mentis led the Toronto Six to a league-high five goals in six games and four assists, led the Six with 28 shots on goals and +8 in seven games. The league MVP tied for the league scoring lead with Boston Pride’s Kaleigh Fratkin in the Lake Placid bubble.
After a rocky 2021 regular season and playoffs, the NWHL finished off their season on a high note. The league will be back June 29th when the NWHL hosts their annual draft for incoming players. The 2021 NWHL Award show was the first time that the National Women’s Hockey League streaming platform was able to deliver an awards show that featured interviews alongside reactions to the results of the awards. An impressive feat for the NWHL.