Girl in the locker room!

Robin Herman /

I didn’t set out to be a sportswriter. I didn’t set out to “break the locker room barrier.” I was pre-med in college. I was supposed to be a doctor. In my college application essay I said I wanted to alleviate the world population problem.

Here’s what happened instead:

“Dear Miss Herman – It’s hard to address a harlot disguised as a reporter, but I just want to warn you that you cannot do such a thing with impunity. It’s wrong, no matter how many women libbers might dumbly applaud.

“If there had been any real, real men in that locker room you would have been kicked out on your prostitutional ass. May that happen, if there is anything to wake you up to your horrendously bad example. Surely you shall regret this, and regret it bitterly.”

It was an anonymous letter with a Georgia postmark that arrived in the tide of letters to my desk at The New York Times following “the Montreal locker room incident” of Jan. 21, 1975. That night, following the National Hockey League’s All-Star Game, I had joined the other sports reporters at the door to the winning team’s locker room, and, like everyone else, I had walked in.

At first, I thought no one would notice me (really) in the crush of reporters eager for a quick post-game quote to round out their stories. I was wearing dark slacks and a dark sweater; I didn’t stand out, I thought…..but there was a rumble and then a kind of shriek and shout. What they saw apparently astonished them: a girl in the locker room!

There were TV lights and photographers and reporters with microphones crushing in on me – and on Marcel St. Cyr, a female reporter for CKLM radio in Montreal who had walked in right behind me — but I quickly lost sight of her. I tried to continue my interview with one of the hockey players…he was wearing a towel around his waist, and he held another towel to his curly hair, still wet from the showers, but I could hardly hear his words for the din and for the rush of my own blood in my head. “Why are you here?” the male reporters asked. “What are you doing?”

I tried to push them away. I’m not the news; “I’M JUST DOING MY JOB,” I kept saying, to no avail, for I was, that night, big news indeed.

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