Last year, female NHL reporters piled on Don Cherry after he said women don’t belong in the men’s locker room (players are too rude, he argued). So we asked Christie Blatchford, a female sports reporter for The Globe and Mail in the ’70s, and Christine Simpson, Sportsnet’s long-time NHL correspondent, to tell us about their experiences over the years.
What was it like when you started going into the locker room?
CB: Back in those days, Harold Ballard, a notorious crank, owned the Maple Leafs, and women sports writers had to wait in the hall outside the dressing room, and players would be brought out to us. It was actually an advantage because you’d get them to yourself and not in a scrum, but it was humiliating, too—it made you feel like a groupie. That practice ended in 1975 when New York Times sports writer Robin Herman and Montreal radio reporter Marcel St. Cyr were let into a locker room after an NHL All-Star game alongside their male colleagues.
What is it like inside the locker room now?
CS: Modern dressing rooms are like luxury condos. Players have their private areas where they get dressed, so they’re in T-shirts and shorts by the time we interview them; they’re not in towels like they used to be. Don Cherry made a big proclamation about how women reporters shouldn’t be allowed in the dressing rooms, but, while I honestly love Don—he’s trying to be very chivalrous—he doesn’t need to shield us from anything.
Have you encountered sexism?
CB: The worst sexism was institutional: no female loos in the press boxes, old-school owners, pissed-off male reporters. The problem was rarely the players.
CS: Absolutely not. I’ve had advantages a lot of women in this business haven’t: I grew up with two brothers who played professionally, then I worked at the Hockey Hall of Fame, and I was an arena announcer for the Maple Leafs. Hockey players are also the most polite guys.
What advice would you give to aspiring female NHL reporters?
CB: Keep at it. Women tend to be good at sports writing, perhaps because they ask questions their male counterparts wouldn’t.
CS: Be passionate. You can’t fake passion. That advice can go to any young male reporter, too. I look forward to the day when I’m not looked upon as a female reporter who covers the NHL—I’m a reporter who covers the NHL.