Why hockey culture needs more women holding top jobs in junior hockey: Paige Martin
Amy Mausser is the head athletic therapist for the Sarnia Sting
When it comes to some of the most important jobs in the Ontario Hockey League, it's still, almost entirely, a no-girls-allowed club.
While Canadian and American women have dominated international hockey for decade almost all of the people involved as coaches, general managers, trainers and owners are men.
OHL columnist Paige Martin tells us about two of the few women to break that barrier. Here's her interview with the CBC's Conrad Collaco. You can read an abridged and edited version of the interview or listen to the full audio interview by hitting the play button above.
Paige Martin, OHL columnist with CBC London
How many women are involved in the OHL?
This is a league that is really a male dominated environment. The amount of woman, it's slim. You can count a handful but there's more coming in. And you've got to ask, is this a sign of the times? There's a manager in Sudbury. There's the trainers in Guelph and Sarnia and it's growing throughout other areas like team's marketing departments as well. But breaking barriers and getting hired into the league is not easy. Here's an example as to why. The commissioner has sent emails that start with "Hello gentlemen." Why is that assumed? Does he know that there are women that he is sending the e-mail to as well? Does he just assume that it's all men that he's speaking with? There are some underlying issues there.
Which women have you met that have broken this barrier?
Amy Mausser: Maybe there's a misconception that there's more barriers for females but we all have the same education. We're all going the same schools. I think it needs to be told that there isn't that barrier. More females need to know that so that they can actually be interested in this job and start working in the OHL and in a male dominant sport. I think the barrier is actually hurting women's drive to actually work in this industry. I think that's the biggest thing. Even males working in a female sport. I think it's vice versa, right. We should remember that we're there for a purpose and we're there to do a job whether we're male or female. It shouldn't matter.
PM: What I learned through talking to her, talking to the players, seeing her interact with the boys and the coaches is how driven she is to be the best at her job. Her job is crucial to the team. All trainers are, and to be honest with you she really runs the show.
What did the players think about having a woman as their trainer?
PM: It was cool to see the way that Amy interacts with these guys and how they interact with her. She told me how much respect she is shown. I didn't really know what that meant until I saw it. These guys really appreciate Amy for who she is and that goes to show the work that she has put into that part of her job.
When I was interviewing Amy, Marko Jakovljevic, a defenceman for the Sarnia Sting, came into the room and right away they joked around with each other and then got to work. I caught up with Marco after to talk about how he and the guys feel about having Amy around and from what you'll hear, they love it. And there's also a couple of ground rules.
Marko Jakovljevic: Personally, I don't really think about it too much just because I think she's one of the best at what she's doing right now and seems to get the job done whenever I'm injured so I don't really care and she seems to not really care either, to be honest. So, it's good and it works. Probably the most obvious one — just watch when you're walking around naked to respect her. She's got an office next to our rooms so you try to keep things P.G. when you're in there but other than that it really isn't too much.
What kind of impact is she having on her team?
Cindy Rees: You know, being surrounded by all men all the time, everybody wants their son to have that motherly female role in their life. So, I would say the same thing goes with having the female trainer. Just that nurturing — and not that men don't have that — but mothers do, right? We're nurturing. We connected with Amy from the get go. You're asking me this question and I'm like, it didn't even really matter that she was female. We just never looked at that, right? She's qualified and she gave us the support we needed and we connected with her.
PM: His dad, John Rees, emphasized just how much it means to have Amy doing what she's doing and how important it is that other women get involved in the OHL and beyond.
John Rees: I think for a lot of these boys you just add another comfort zone of, maybe, a mother figure or supporting figure from a comfort zone. I think it's very important. It's good for Amy to inspire other young women to realize that they can get involved. It's not just men that are qualified to do these jobs. It's good. You see a lot of in broadcasting today in NHL hockey. Why can't it branch out into behind the bench or behind the scenes?
The last time we spoke we talked about how hockey culture needs to change specifically as it has to do with racism and bullying. How would having more women in management or behind the bench change hockey culture?
It could be one more step forward towards making that change and to have a safe space. Marko mentioned that her office is to the side of the dressing room, and even though she can't go in the dressing room, the guys can come into her office and that really is a safe space for them because she works so hard to build relationships with these guys where they feel comfortable to open up to her. Sometimes hockey players, OHL players specifically, can get a bad rap because everyone thinks they're living the dream of just hockey all day and hanging out with friends and playing games on the weekends, which is obviously cool and that's true but, at the same time, there's a lot that's still going on in their life. There's a lot of pressure. There's a lot of expectations. And if that hockey culture does exist, there's that whole element as well weighing on them. It was really refreshing to hear Amy speak about that kind of space that has been created now and specifically in Sarnia.
If there are many women employed at levels below junior hockey, in minor hockey, that means the people making the hiring decisions about filling these general manager, trainer and coaching positions have women to choose from as they fill job vacancies. Should we expect to see more women in the OHL?
The Guelph Storm also has a female athletic therapist. Her name is Brie Donelson. She's been in the league since 2017 and there's been a couple of others throughout the years and many teams in the OHL have female physicians as well. Yes, we should expect it. That's exactly what Amy is pushing for each day that she goes to work. There are more and more women who are choosing to enter these jobs where there aren't many women. In the OHL it still isn't normal to see a woman behind the bench. Here's what Amy told me.
Amy Mausser: I don't know if we'll ever be normal just because of gender. I am different. So, it won't ever be normal. I think there will always be that little hesitation because I am a female with teams and I don't know if that's just a misconception that we fight with every day a little bit. I think it's something that's becoming the norm now. But I think it's slow. I think at the end of the day I never saw myself working as a woman in a male dominant environment as a barrier. So, I think that's the biggest thing to take from it, is that I never really saw it as a barrier.