Manon Rheaume Making History

Kaya Squirewell

1992 was a historic year for the professional women’s ice hockey goaltender, Manon Rheaume. 27 years ago, she became the first woman to play in a major North America pro sports league. 

She was also selected to Canada’s national women’s ice hockey team. She won a gold medal and was picked to be on the All-Star team. In the International Hockey League (IHL), Rheaume was signed by the Atlanta Knights. She became the first woman to appear in a regular-season professional game. 

She played 24 games for seven different teams. While she played in an exhibition game with the Tampa Bay Lightning, the 20-year old goalie played one period and allowed two goals on nine shots against the St. Louis Blues. Rhéaume stopped seven of nine shots and left the game after one period with the score tied 2-2, then lead the Lightning to the organization’s first franchise home game victory against the Blues. “Through the years, having so many people come up to me, telling me that I inspired their daughter or son, or someone saying, ‘I had your poster on my wall,’ that makes me realize my story impacted a lot of people in a positive way,” says the superstar athlete. 

Several women’s hockey players were invited to play in the NHL All-Star game. Rheaume is still the only woman to ever play in an NHL preseason game. Before Manon’s time, a Quebec native had similar accomplishments being the first female goaltender to play for a boys’ team in 1984 and to play in a men’s Major Junior hockey game in the 1991-92 season.

She was determined to accomplish her desires and dream goals. Rheaume wanted to play in a men’s professional hockey league, even though she was a female. Her accomplishments break the gender role stereotypes between men and women. That didn’t stop her from dreaming and working incredibly hard to achieve her goals. “Now, looking back, I realize how big of a deal it was,” Rheaume told the NHL in early 2019. “When I was young and got invited, it happened so fast and I didn’t realize the impact I would have on people, on history, on everything when I went there. I just went because it was amazing to play at the highest level. Now, looking back, no other female has done that, and not only in hockey, but the four major sports.”

Although Rheaume is currently retired, her attendance at the 1992 Lightning training camp helped the growth of women’s hockey and inspired young girls to play the sport. Manon Rheaume is now retired and a mom living in Northfield, Michigan, while supporting her two sons hockey dreams. She also started an organization, The Manon Rhéaume Foundation to help girls participate in sports and reach their aspirations.