A Junior Canes player proves that firsthand after earning a scholarship from the Black Girl Hockey Club.
Rayla Wilkes is an 8 year old on a mission.
“When I grow up, I really want to be the captain,” Rayla said. “I really want to become super good at stick handling and skate fast with the puck.”
Rayla started playing hockey when she was 5 and wants people to know that anyone can participate.
“Have you seen the NWHL?” Rayla asked. “There’s an NWHL, not just an NHL. It’s not just a boy’s sport. It’s like a sport for everyone. Anyone can do it. All ages can. All genders can.”
Rayla’s mother said it’s important to have recognizable role models.
“These girls see women, that’s great,” said her mother, Amanda Wilkes. “They see women and they do what they do, and then a colored girl sees a girl who looks like her doing exactly what she wants to do, and it just makes you feel like she can do it too. I think the representation is real. huge. “
Rayla wears number 55 in honor of her favorite player, Kelsey Koelzer, who was the first black player to be the first overall choice in a professional North American hockey league and became the first black head coach in NCAA ice hockey history.
“I think that’s really cool because I haven’t seen many dark players in hockey,” said Rayla. “I think it’s really cool for girls like Kelsey to play.”
Rayla’s mother said she and her daughter are doing what they can to let minorities know that this “great” sport can be for them too.
“I think it’s important because I feel like minority groups don’t feel like hockey is for them or feel welcome in the sport,” Wilkes said. “I want to show them that that’s not the case. I want to support them, bring them and show them what a great sport this is, and help them to shine and be a resource.”
Earlier this month, Rayla won a $ 1,000 scholarship from the Black Girls Hockey Club, an organization that unites black women in the hockey community. The stock market is a response to some of the financial gatekeeping that goes with hockey.
“One thing that really stood out in her application was the desire to be able to travel with her team,” said Renee Hess, Founder and Executive Director of Black Girl Hockey Club. “One of the things she says was she really wants to be like one of the girls and go somewhere and stay in the hotel and have the same experience as the rest of her teammates.”
Wilkes said the Carolina Hurricanes organization has always made everyone feel welcome.
“It’s amazing,” said Wilkes. “That’s so inspiring to her. We’re lucky the Canes organization has never had any issues with racism. The Canes organization is so welcoming. They do a lot of outreach. We are very blessed to have done that. had no problems, I say because I’m not naive enough to think it never will, but I hope that by the time she grows up, it won’t be a problem.
“I don’t see it because this is a white sport,” she added. ‘I never did. I think representation is definitely important. The more you see, the better it makes you feel. I just want people to know it’s okay to love the sport. It’s a great sport. ‘
Wilkes said the money will help pay for a tournament in South Carolina next month and give Rayla the same experiences as her teammates.
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