Equal access to locker rooms did not become standard in the N.H.L. for about a decade, with the Toronto Maple Leafs as the league’s lone holdout as late as 1987. The team’s owner, Harold Ballard, even went so far as to ban all reporters from the locker room rather than be compelled to admit female sportswriters. He once said that women would be allowed in if they took off their clothes before asking questions.
Robin Cathy Herman was born on Nov. 24, 1951, in New York City and grew up in Port Washington, on Long Island. Her father, Sidney, owned a hat factory and later taught business law at the New York Institute of Technology. Her mother, Mildred (Gold) Herman, was a sculptor.
Ms. Herman entered Princeton University in 1969 as part of its first class of female undergraduates and joined the campus newspaper, The Daily Princetonian. There, each new reporter was to be given both a news and a sports beat, but the editors had assumed that Ms. Herman would not want to cover sports, and so gave her only a news assignment.
“It struck me as inequitable,” she told the Princeton Alumni Weekly in 2013. “It was a reflex, really,” she added, of speaking up to cover sports.
She volunteered to write about rugby, then covered men’s squash, men’s tennis and football.
After graduating in 1973 with a bachelor’s degree in English, she was hired as a clerk in The Times’s sports department and was soon promoted to reporter. Before being assigned to the Islanders, she wrote about tennis, yachting and horse racing.
In the ESPN documentary, she recalled a particular piece of hate mail about female sportswriters entering men’s locker rooms and clubhouses.
“It’s hard to address a harlot disguised as a reporter,” it read in part, “but I just want to warn you that you cannot do such a thing with impunity. It’s wrong, no matter how many women libers might dumbly applaud it.”