Integrated Locker Rooms

The life of a female hockey player in a male dominated sport.

Lauren Brink
Team Leader, Pick-Up Coordinator, League Commissioner & Penguins Fan
March 23
Whelp, here I am. I just graduated college, got out of a long term relationship, moved to a new apartment, started a new job and my social life is in shambles. I'm still carrying my freshmen 15 and making up all the excuses I can for not joining a gym. I started to accept my new position in life until, out of the blue; I was introduced to adult recreational hockey. Hockey. Changed. Everything.

There is so much that I could talk about how hockey changed my life but the most positive thing that I could have ever done in my adult hockey career was integrating into the team locker room. When I joined my first E league, there were very few girls. We were instructed to change in the unoccupied referee locker rooms. They were like closets. Sometimes I would be alone, and other times several girls from multiple teams were packed in there like sardines. It was, to say the least, awkward. Sure, I got to socialize with girls from other teams but as soon as I got to my bench of all men, everyone was a stranger.

On the bench it is straight game talk. There are no "how are yous?" or "what do you do for a living?" only "I can't believe I fanned on that shot" or "ref must be blind for not calling that slash!" There would be inside jokes flying around the bench and when I inquired the typical answer was "it was from the locker room - had to be there, I guess". New nick names between the guys started to come to the surface as the season went on - none of which I knew the reference to. Each game, I would try to socialize on the bench but it never reached the level of interactions the men shared. After every game, I would shake hands with my team and head back to isolation.

One day, I decided I had had enough and I wanted to get to know my teammates better so on the next game day I stuffed all the courage I could into my bag and trampled into the team locker room. On this particular team, I was accepted into the room immediately. I was flabbergasted. There was this mutual respect between all of us. Sensitive changing could be completed in the adjacent bathrooms or behind towels. If I wanted to shower, I was still welcome to use the referee changing room then return to my team's locker room. It was really a bonding experience that brought all of us closer. That team set the standard to which I held all of the teams I have ever played for. I felt like my life was coming together. I was active again, learning a new sport and now the social aspect of hockey completed what I felt was missing. No one could really understand how much bonding occurs in locker rooms until you are excluded from it seasons at a time.

To say the least, co-ed locker rooms are not for everyone nor work for every team. I have been kicked out of locker rooms or had men throw fits because it is unacceptable or they have jealous wives. I can fully respect that it is a choice for me and for you. I have also been on teams where the guys would send me messages outside of the facility about what kind of underwear I was wearing the day of certain games or inviting me to share a hockey shower with them. When that happened, I simply quit the team because I don't desire to be isolated or to associate with that kind of person.

Currently, I play for three teams - all of which have multiple girls on the roster and share a locker room. We have been playing together now for several years, and I consider some to be close friends of mine. The number of girls has significantly increased since I started and yet the unoccupied referee locker rooms remain such. Integrated change rooms are changing the way women view rec league hockey and personally, I wouldn't have it any other way.
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