September 23 is a huge date for women’s sports. On this day in 1992, Manon Rhéaume became the first (and still only) woman to play in any of the major professional North American sports leagues when she appeared in a preseason game for the Tampa Bay Lightning. She played for the Lightning in the franchise’s first home game against the St. Louis Blues, stopping seven of nine shots in one period of action. Widely known as “The First Woman of Hockey,” Rhéaume also went on to a six-year professional career in the minor leagues.
GoodSport spoke with Manon, who shared her memory of the iconic moment, “I still remember the walk from the locker room to the ice. My heart was beating incredibly fast. It was probably the most intense moment I had ever experienced, but once I stepped on the ice, the butterflies disappeared and I was just ready to play hockey – the sport I grew up with and loved!”
Her career in women’s hockey was nothing short of spectacular. As a member of Team Canada, Rhéaume helped lead her team to a silver medal at the 1998 Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan, which was the first time in Olympic history where women’s hockey was an official event. She also was named the “best goaltender” in the 1992 and 1994 IIHF Women’s World Championships, leading the team to two gold medals.
Since her retirement in 2008, Rhéaume has remained busy. She established the Manon Rhéaume Foundation, which provides scholarships to girls under 19 to help them pursue their athletic dreams. Today, she balances an intense schedule that includes coaching girls in the Detroit Red Wings youth program and public speaking while raising two boys. Following in his mom’s skates, her eldest son is currently a goalie at Notre Dame.