The Temple of Lavioletteism has been juggling a few different ideas lately, but I thought covering this base was a bit overdue. This is a story of groundbreaking acheivement that can not be ignored. A lot has been published about this player in the past, but I’ll try to shed some new light for the readers. As Jackie Gleason used to say, “And awayyyyy we go!”
Rhéaume was the middle child and only daughter of Nicole and Pierre Rhéaume of Lac-Beauport, PQ, a small town of about 6,000 residents roughly 25 kilometers north of Quebec City. Her first appearance in elite hockey came in the late ’80’s with the Sherbrooke Jofa-Titan, a member of the League Régionale du Hockey au Féminin in PQ. Her performance made her a highly touted minor prospect for major junior teams across eastern Canada. Rhéaume eventually signed with the Trois-Rivières Draveurs of the Q for the 1991-92 season. Her stint would make her the first female participant in a men’s Junior A hockey game ever, but of course this was only the first boundary she would break.
A stroke of luck brought Manon to a tryout for the newly formed NHL franchise Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992. Her technical skill in net would prove so impressive that the higher-ups had to sign her as a free agent. This was the first time in history a woman was given a professional hockey contract. Playing one period in an exhibition game against St. Louis, she allowed two goals but proved very steady and earned her place in the history books.
In this time, Rhéaume made her mark on the international circuit as well, backstopping Canada’s women’s national team to IIHF World Championship gold medals in ’92 and ’94 (being selected the All-Star team goalie both times). Also occurring in ’92 was her signing by the Atlanta Knights of the International Hockey League, becoming the first woman to appear in a regular season game for a professional league (her first appearance was against the Salt Lake Golden Eagles). She would make sporadic appearances with Atlanta and six other teams in the following five years (stopping along the way to play a second exhibition game with Tampa in ’93 against the Oates to Neely era Bruins), appearing in 24 total games before calling it quits from the pro sport in ’97, though deciding to participate in the ’98 Olympics in Nagano (Team Canada won the silver medal).
In ’99, Rhéaume took up a job at the University of Minnesota at Duluth as the goalie coach of the women’s team. After serving in that capacity for a season, she worked in marketing with Mission Hockey as a developer and promoter of girls’ hockey equipment for 3 years. After this, Rhéaume disappeared from the public eye until October of 2008 when she reemerged in the IHL, this time as part of the training camp squad as an exhibition goalie with the Port Huron Icehawks. Later in the season, she joined the Flint Generals and suited up for them in a regular season game on April 3rd, 2009. This was slightly less historic, as the Generals previously had two other women play for the team, but nonetheless hockey fans were delighted that the sensation had returned. Rhéaume switched gears for the next hockey season, joining the Minnesota Whitecaps of the Western Women’s Hockey League, leading them to the Clarkson Cup finals (the WWHL’s Stanley Cup equivelant). This was a season where Rhéaume proved her competitive spirit, as she helped the Whitecaps win 2 of the 3 games in a season series against the Calgary Oval X-Treme, who had not been defeated in 2 full regular seasons prior to this. As is my signature remark of approval, “Damn straight.”
Today most of Manon’s time is dedicated to raising her son Dylan and running the Manon Rhéaume Foundation with the goal of inspiring young women to pursue their dreams and overcome obstacles. Most notably, the Foundation provides scholarships to young ladies as they seek to reach their aspired goals. I myself love this idea, most of the girls I’ve played hockey with have been incredibly talented and dedicated; and always more obedient and attentive to the coaches than the male players. Go on, click here and give her some support.
“I declare to you that woman must not depend upon the protection of man, but must be taught to protect herself, and there I take my stand.” – Susan B. Anthony