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For the past two seasons, I’ve reported on the Arizona Coyotes for Heroes Media Group and above all I am grateful for the opportunity. I began reporting at 20-years-old and apart from the interns, I was the youngest reporter in attendance. I most likely still will be this season. Additionally, I was one of a handful of women covering the team.

Is hockey journalism a “boys club,” as sports journalism in general has often been over the years? I can’t speak for every franchise in the industry but in my experience with the Coyotes, I can confidently say while women are outnumbered in the press box, things are improving as time goes on.

During my time at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, my female professors with sports journalism experience had their fair share of horror stories about how locker rooms and press boxes used to be. Women used to be denied locker room access at men’s sporting events while their male counterparts had that time to get exclusive quotes from key players immediately after the game. A professor who reported on baseball reflected on a time when the media relations contact for a team didn’t even believe she had clearance to be present in the press box during a game and had her removed despite her credentials.

Going into my first game, these stories were running through my head. Was I too young? Too feminine? Would I get the same scornful treatment as the women before me ten or twenty years ago? I received my credentials and as I waited for the elevator to take me into the Coyotes press box for the first time in my career, my mind was racing and my heart was pounding.

Reality did not measure up to my wary expectations. The staff at Gila River Arena and those directly employed by the Coyotes franchise never batted an eye at my age or gender. The interns handling credential distribution made an effort to interact with me and remember my face and name that season. Any questions or requests I had for the staff were met with professionalism and warmth. I was never denied access to the locker room for post-game interviews. That first season, I never once felt unwelcome or inadequate for being a young woman reporting on hockey.

That is not to say everything was always a walk in the park, there were times I doubted myself or felt intimidated by the fast-paced environment that is game day reporting. At the beginning I was once called “cute and spunky” by a fellow reporter and I wasn’t always acknowledged by other journalists.

I began to doubt if I really fit the bill of “sports journalist,” but I tried to not let that show as I threw myself into live tweeting games, taking detailed notes and taking part in general conversation with other journalists about plays and players. I realized I could keep up with my colleagues and they began to open up as it became clear I was a Coyotes beat reporter just like them. As time went on for the most part they respected me whether they were men or women.

Looking back at my time reporting on the Arizona Coyotes, I’m proud of how I’ve grown through my experience. I’m thankful to be in an environment that is primarily warm and positive. When I compare my reflections on sports journalism with the women who came before me, I realize we’ve come so far and more often than not, even as the growing minority, women are given much better treatment now in comparison to the past.

There are slip-ups like the women denied locker room access after a Jaguars-Colts game in 2015, but now we have the visibility and opportunity through social media and the backing of our news organizations to push back against that kind of discrimination and foster a conversation about how we can prevent these situations from becoming prominent once again. I am part of a new generation of female sports reporters. We are driven, armed with the knowledge passed down from the women who came before us and determined to make progress and prove we deserve a place in the press box.

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