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Hockey is full of unwritten rules. Some rules could apply to pretty much any group or activity. Other rules are unique to the game of hockey, taking shape because of the distinct limitations and opportunities the sport presents. Classic examples include don’t touch the goalie, shake hands after the game, don’t shave during the playoffs, and get your gear on in the locker room as a team.
And yet, goalies do get touched, players skip handshakes, beards get trimmed, and coed adult league teams don’t always get to use the same locker room.
On coed adult hockey teams, players can choose to get dressed in the same locker room or choose to follow the more common social norm that men and women should avoid each other when changing. Regardless of gender, teammates generally enjoy extra time to talk before and after games. Hockey puts an even bigger focus on locker rooms than some other sports because so much time is spent putting on gear.
Many hockey teams spend most of their time together getting equipment on and off. With so much team-building happening in locker rooms, players often feel like they aren’t a part of the team without the locker room experience. The YouTube channel Beginner Adult Hockey explains, “I was subjugated to a women’s-only locker room. I wasn’t allowed to go in the men’s locker room, which kind of sucks especially when you only have a couple women on your team. You’re sitting there before and after the game with one person while everyone else gets to have fun.”
When players aren’t comfortable getting ready in the same area, women are the ones sent to bathroom stalls, storage closets, or any extra available corner of the rink so that gender segregation can be maintained. However, I have been a part of many locker rooms where the team gets dressed and undressed in the same area without any issue.
There is an odd comfort in feeling like each teammate can prepare for the upcoming game together, without worrying about who sees who. It takes a lot of trust for any team to decide against broader societal rules in favor of hockey rules, especially when this behavior could even be considered illegal in another venue.
Still, coed teams gear up in the same room more often than you might think. I have personally been in coed locker rooms over 100 times. I have never seen or heard anything demeaning or inappropriate, which is saying something because we are still talking about a room full of hockey players. Every time I have been in a coed locker room, I’m struck by how little people seem to care that someone of a different gender is changing nearby.
However, it is easier for me to have an overly positive attitude about locker room situations on coed teams - I am a man and I get the luxury of changing in the team’s dressing room without needing to worry about finding another place to lace up.
This piece is not meant to convince you that coed adult teams should always change in the same room, or that players should be criticized for wanting privacy while they get dressed. In the end, each team has to figure out the locker room situation that is best for them. Men can help create a better coed locker room environment by having women decide what’s best for the team when it comes to dressing arrangements.
Men on coed teams can also do things like lobby the rink to furnish full-sized women’s changing rooms if these don’t exist already. Small acts like these can make all the difference between teammates and friends.
There are many unwritten rules in hockey; pushing certain teammates out of locker rooms doesn’t have to be one of them.