Breaking the 'testosterone glass ceiling': Gander Flyers get 1st female trainer

Stephanie Winsor, whose three sons play hockey, says she spent half her life at the rink before becoming involved in minor hockey, then with the senior team.

Stephanie Winsor would like to see more girls and women involved in hockey

Stephanie Winsor on the bench as trainer for the Gander Flyers senior hockey team for the first time Nov. 4. (Scott Cook)

When the Gander Flyers opened their season in the Central West Senior A Hockey League on Nov. 4, there was a woman on the bench.

Stephanie Winsor is the team's first female trainer, and it's her goal to encourage more women and girls to get involved in the sport.

The women are really starting to break through that testosterone glass ceiling in senior hockey.- Stephanie Winsor

Winsor — a nurse with 22 years of experience in the emergency room — said providing first aid and immediate medical support to injured players as a team trainer felt like a natural path to take, and she has already built a great rapport with the team.

"It's a bit unique this year because I think I bring a nurturing role as well. The senior Flyers, they're all in their 20's ... so they're kind of already calling me Trainer Mom," she told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show. 

Bringing a 'softer side'

"I guess the uniqueness of having a female on the bench ... it's kind of bringing a different flavour to it. Not only are we capable, and we know the game of hockey, and we have the skill set, but we kind of bring a softer side ... and that's probably a bit new for senior hockey organizations but I think it's a good fit, I really do." 

Stephanie Winsor says she took on the volunteer role of trainer after being approached by the Flyers, and it was a good fit given her medical background and love for the game. (Suzanne Tiller)

Winsor had no interest in hockey until her three sons started playing about 13 years ago.

"I didn't know anything about it, and next thing I knew I was spending half my life in a rink."

She became certified as a trainer in 2013 and took over as president of the Gander Minor Hockey Association this year.

Growing female participation

While the senior hockey league is still predominantly male, Winsor is hopeful that will change. 

"The women are really starting to break through that testosterone glass ceiling in senior hockey," she said.

Rebecca Russell became the first female head coach of the Clarenville Caribous in 2016, and 12 of Winsor's 20 colleagues on the executive of the Gander Minor Hockey Association are women.  

Getting other women and girls involved in the sport is one of Winsor's main priorities as president of the association.

"We're really trying to grow female hockey," she said.

"The way you do that is by mentoring them and setting the example that females do belong at the rink. They belong both on the ice and on the bench."

With files from the St. John's Morning Show