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Aisha Visram: Skating Through the Glass Ceiling

The Ontario Reign’s head trainer made NHL history when she became the first woman to be on the bench for a professional hockey game

The LA Kings skated to a 6-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins Thursday night, but that wasn’t the most significant thing to happen at Crypto.com Arena. During the game, Kings’ athletic trainer Aisha Visram became the first woman to occupy a team’s bench in NHL history.

The historic moment came because three members of the Kings’ training staff were sidelined by COVID protocols. But for Visram, it was the culmination of a life’s work. The organization called in Visram from the American Hockey League’s Ontario Reign, where she serves as the team’s head athletic trainer.

Visram’s parents were born in Africa and were avid soccer and cricket fans. However, when they relocated their family to Canada, they started to follow hockey as a way to immerse themselves in the culture and introduced their children to the game at a young age. Although Aisha played the sport growing up, she realized early that her calling wasn’t on the ice.

With athletic training, Visram found a way to merge her passion for healthcare with her beloved sport.

As she headed to university, Visram studied human kinetics. Following graduation, she pursued an advanced certificate in athletic therapy and got a master’s degree in Exercise Psychology.

Throughout her course of study, Visram secured a wide range of internships with teams, but her eye was always on hockey.

“I started out as a student, they have you working all of the sports,” Visram said in an interview with the Reign. “But I tried to align my path towards hockey.”

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Following her graduation from UMass, Visram headed north to St. Lawrence University, where she served as the school’s assistant athletic trainer, working closely with the women’s hockey team. When the Adirondack Thunder called, she made the move to the pros, joining the ECHL squad as its head trainer and strength coach. She became only the second woman in the ECHL to hold this position.

In 2021, she headed west to join the LA Kings’ AHL affiliate as its head trainer.

Visram credits a long line of women working behind the scenes in the sport with her success, forging the path to this historical first.

“When I was growing up, the idea of women working in professional hockey was still a little crazy,” she said. “I’ve been lucky that a lot of qualified, driven women paved the way, but I’ve never felt that it was even an issue. I think that it just really means that the game is trying to be more inclusive. I think for a long time it had a reputation of not really being that way. And I think this push is showing that it’s not an exclusive sport for a certain group of people. It’s for everyone.”

Prior to Visram’s debut on the bench, the NHL remained the final of the four major men’s professional leagues to never have a woman occupy a slot on a full-time coaching and training staff.

While women continue to make strides in the sport, Visram will hold her place in the history books. She joins women across the major professional leagues who are seizing professional opportunities and making their mark on all aspects of sports.

Who is Aisha Visram?

Home town: Toronto, Ontario
Alma maters: University of Guelph (BS, Human Kinetics); Mount Royal University (Advanced Certificate in Athletic Therapy); University of Massachusetts Amherst (MSc, Exercise Psychology)
: Head Athletic Trainer, Ontario Reign
Franchise: Los Angeles Kings

Previous employers:

  • St. Lawrence University
  • Adirondack Thunder

Hockey milestones:

  • 2021: Joined the American Hockey League’s Ontario Thunder as the Head Trainer
  • 2018: Became Head Train & Strength Coach with the Adirondack Thunder, becoming only the second woman to serve as a trainer in the league.
About The Author
Bernadette Doykos
Bernadette Doykos
Bernadette Doykos is the Senior Director of Editorial Strategy at Boardroom. Before joining the team, her work appeared in ELLE. She previously served as the head of evaluation for a nonprofit where she became obsessed with systems and strategy and served as the curator of vibes and extinguisher of fires for the design thinking firm Stoked. She is constantly plotting a perfect tunnel โ€˜fit and a playlist for all occasions.