You may have never heard of Manon Rheaume but if you followed hockey in the 1990s, you would know that Rheaume was the first woman to play professional hockey. With the United States Women’s Hockey team winning the Gold Medal this week, I thought it would be fitting to flashback to one of the pioneers in women’s hockey. Many have called her the “First Woman of Hockey”.
In 1992, Rheaume signed as a free agent for the Tampa Bay Lightning of the National Hockey League (NHL) and was the first woman to sign with an NHL team. She played in an exhibition game against the St. Louis Blues allowing two goals on nine shots. She later played in another exhibition game against the Boston Bruins in 1993. She never saw action in any regular season game in the NHL. She did, however, make her first appearance in a regular season game in 1992 with the Atlanta Knights of the International Hockey League (IHL) against Salt Lake Golden Eagles. In addition to playing for the Knights, Rheaume played for the Knoxville Cherokees, Nashville Knights, Las Vegas Aces, Tallahassee Tiger Sharks, Las Vegas Thunder and Reno Renegades from 1992-1997. She appeared in a total of 24 games. Her record during this span was 7-6-2.
In the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Rheaume to played the gold-medal game against the United States. She made several notable stops in the first period, but let in one goal during the second period and another in the third period. Canada didn’t score until late in the third period, with only four minutes left on the clock. A minute before the buzzer sounded, the Canadians decided to pull their goalie to improve their scoring chances. However, the Americans took advantage, scoring their third goal and winning the game 3–1. Rheaume and the rest of the team went home with silver, Canada’s first Olympic medal in women’s hockey.
Rheaume later played for the Minnesota Whitecaps which was a women’s professional team in the Western Women’s Hockey League (WWHL) from 2007-2009. She led the Whitecaps to the league finals.
In 2015, Rheaume dropped the puck in the opening face before the first game in the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL).
Rheaume currently resides in Michigan and coaches a Detroit Little Caesar’s under-12 girls hockey team.