Hockey Canada has introduced a new policy for the 2023-24 minor league season and onward, requiring all participants in minor hockey to wear a base layer of clothing while in the dressing room, citing gender identity and inclusion concerns.
“Coaches can’t always visually identify and automatically know what gender someone identifies with, so this just allows everybody to fit into that dressing room,” says Craig Robinson, president of Halifax Hawks Minor Hockey.
“The Dressing Room Policy is focused on enhancing safety for all participants on any team or officiating team across the country. Dressing rooms are designated team spaces for all team participants to use and interact in. These spaces come with minimum attire requirements or supervision, and a requirement to accommodate individuals if they require additional measures or support,” as per its dressing room policy document.
“Hockey Canada mandates that every participant has the right to use the dressing room that is most congruent with their gender identity,” the policy says. However, most minor hockey rinks do not have dressing rooms associated with gender, prompting the minimum attire rule.
“Participants should arrive at the rink wearing a base layer, (e.g., shorts and a t-shirt, compression shorts and shirt or sports bra). A participant not arriving at the rink wearing their baser layer can use an appropriate private space (e.g., private restroom stalls or empty/unused dressing rooms) to change into the base layer and then enter the team dressing room with the other participants,” the rule states.
While minor hockey players are showering, Hockey Canada also recommends that players continue to wear the minimum attire if in an open-concept shower; this could include swimwear. Players are encouraged to change from their initial undergarments into their swimwear to shower and then back to their undergarments afterwards.
The September 12, 2023 revision updated the language regarding the ‘use of showers’ section from “required to recommended”. This revision follows another version from June 19, 2023, where the other major revisions and updates were implemented.
Many dressing rooms used by minor hockey teams have a bathroom with only one stall. Teams have an already limited allotment of time in dressing rooms before and after their games. Forcing each player to take turns in the lone bathroom stall to change from the undergarments they wore to the game into their swimwear, back into their undergarments may cause timing issues.
If a player shows up without their undergarment, Hockey Canada says that “team officials should instruct the athlete to put their equipment (including pelvic-area protective gear) in the private washroom stall within their dressing room (if one is available) before putting their remaining equipment on with the rest of the team.”
Kids may choose to skip showering altogether. Robinson admits that there has been some pushback from parents. Concern has been raised around hygiene and how some players may need to wear sweaty and smelly undergarments to and from the rink.
The next review date for the dressing room policy is September 12, 2026. Parents have had mixed reviews online.
Filmmaker and prospective Conservative candidate Aaron Gunn said the policy was “completely insane.”
The ‘Rule of Two’ is a part of Hockey Canada’s dressing room policy. “The ‘Rule of Two’ requires two trained and screened adults to be present in the dressing room or immediately outside the dressing room with the door propped open to monitor the environment and ensure it is free of any discrimination, harassment, bullying, or other forms of maltreatment.”
Hockey Canada is the national governing body for grassroots hockey in the country. While almost every minor hockey league falls under Hockey Canada’s purview, a few private, generally high-level, leagues are not governed by Hockey Canada, such as HSL (Hockey Super League).
The new policy affects all minor hockey teams participating in leagues associated with Hockey Canada, from the youngest level up to the under-18 age division.