CBC Digital Archives

1992: Manon Rhéaume becomes first woman to play pro hockey

Throughout history, "ladies" were discouraged from participating in team sports because it was thought competition would lead to "manly" behaviours. But thanks to pioneering athletes such as Bobbie Rosenfeld, Nancy Greene and Hayley Wickenheiser, young women now have the freedom to participate and excel in any sport — be it track, skiing or hockey. These women not only excelled in their chosen fields but were instrumental in shattering stereotypes of the female athlete.

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Some call it a sideshow, a publicity stunt. But on Sept. 23, 1992, Manon Rhéaume makes history by becoming the first woman to play professional hockey. She tends goal for the Tampa Bay Lightning in a NHL pre-season exhibition game against the St. Louis Blues. As reported in this TV footage, the 20-year-old Quebec native plays only one period, making seven saves and allowing two goals. But it is enough to thrust the "gorgeous goaltender" into the headlines.

• Born in Lac Beaufort, Que., on Feb. 24, 1972, Manon Rhéaume learned to skate at the age of three and began playing hockey at five. At 11, she became the first girl to play in the International Pee Wee Hockey Tournament in Quebec.
• At 19, she became the first woman to play in a major junior hockey game, skating for the Trois-Rivières Draveurs, a men's team from Quebec.

• Despite her team's 6-4 loss to St. Louis, Rhéaume led her team on the ice to a standing ovation from the crowd at Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall.
• "I was very nervous. I didn't think about being the first woman. I thought about doing my best and concentrating on the puck." -- Manon Rhéaume in the Toronto Star, Sept. 24, 1992

• When asked if it was all a publicity stunt, former NHL great and Lightning general manager Phil Esposito admitted: "I'd be a liar to say I wasn't using this for publicity. But I don't care if she is a woman. If there were a horse with skates and it could stop a puck, I'd put it in there." -- in People Weekly, Sept. 28, 1992

• After the exhibition game, Rhéaume was offered and accepted a contract to play for the team's minor league affiliate.
• She was bounced around to various minor league teams before ending up in a roller-hockey league.
• In 1996, she made history again when she played for the Sacramento River Rats of Roller Hockey International and became the first female goalie to defeat a male goalie in a RHI game.

• Rhéaume was part of Canada's first women's Olympic hockey team, which won silver at the 1998 Olympics.
• In 2002, Rhéaume coached "Mission Betty" -- the first all-girl squad to compete in the Quebec international hockey tournament, the world's biggest peewee competition.
• In 1992, Rhéaume published an autobiography, Manon: Alone In Front Of The Net.

• The 5 foot 6 inch, 135 lb Rhéaume turned down a $50,000 offer to pose for Playboy magazine.
• Rhéaume lives in California with her son Dylan, coaching and working for a hockey equipment company.

Medium: Television
Program: CBC at Six
Broadcast Date: Sept. 24, 1992
Guests: Philippe Cantin, Jacques Demers, Manon Rhéaume, Patrick Roy
Reporter: Scott Russell
Duration: 1:50
Footage: NHL

Last updated: January 30, 2014

Page consulted on December 5, 2014

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