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Breaking the Ice: Playing in a male-dominated league

What it’s like for the five women on AU’s ice hockey team

For the five women on American University’s ice hockey team, playing their sport with men is nothing out of the ordinary. 

Graduate student co-captain Siobhan Frey, sophomore co-captain Brooklyn Spathies, junior Victoria Gauvin, junior Ella Miller and freshman Jayda Hayes are prominent members of AU Ice Hockey — a DIII men’s club team in the northern division of the Atlantic Coast Collegiate Hockey League

The league follows men’s hockey rules, which permit body checking and a greater degree of overall contact than women’s hockey. Hockey teams begin to hold checking clinics for boys around age 13, according to Spathies. On the other hand, most of the women never formally received training on how to check. But, Spathies said, “It’s kind of an unwritten rule that the guys on the other team are not smashing into us like they would the other guys … it might be a respect thing.” 

Many of the women said they are familiar with playing on co-ed or male hockey teams and grew up doing so. Frey played co-ed with her twin brother until she was 13, when she switched to women’s hockey — a more strategic, less physical game compared to men’s. Spathies, Gauvin and Hayes all followed similar paths. 

In such a male-dominated league, AU ice hockey stands out. Very few of their opponents have female players, while AU has five. “It’s usually one girl, if any,” Frey said. 

Girls on Ice Hockey


As a result, AU’s female players are no strangers to sexism in sports. “I think we don’t necessarily get the same respect as the male captains on our team do,” Spathies said, referring to herself and Frey. “There is underlying sexism, and everyone sees it. Even some of the boys on the team will see it from their teammates and call them out.” 

Frey echoed Spathies’ sentiment and said most players look to the male leaders on the team to be “the voice of reason.” 

From other teams and coaches, they said they receive a lot of laughs and remarks about being female hockey players. Still, Frey and Spathies don’t take such comments too harshly. They laughed as they mentioned a coach who told them to hang around and find a rich hockey boy to marry. 

Despite such instances, the two co-captains emphasized AU ice hockey’s strong sense of unity and their focus on supporting each other on the ice. “When I get hit, the bigger guys have that guy in their sights and hit them as payback,” Frey said.

An important part of hockey culture is the locker room environment, so the male and female players share a locker room to continue building team chemistry. Their focus is on collectively building a stronger team and winning games.

“The worries are so much more than what it actually is,” Frey said. “It’s a normal hockey team.”

This article was edited by Penelope Jennings, Zoe Bell, Delaney Hoke and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Luna Jinks, Isabelle Kravis and Olivia Citarella.

sports@theeagleonline.com 


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