On September 23, 1992, Manon Rheaume becomes the first woman to play in one of the four major men’s North American pro sports leagues when she takes the ice for the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning in a preseason game. The 20-year-old goalie faces nine shots and allows two goals in St. Louis’ 6-4 victory. “I was very nervous,” she tells the Tampa Bay Tribune.
Born in Quebec on Feb. 23, 1972, Rheaume made history in 1984 when she became the first female to play for a boys team in a Canadian Pee-Wee tournament. Seven years later, she made history again when she became the first woman to play in a men’s junior hockey game in Canada.
Tampa Bay was an expansion team in 1992, and Rheaume’s presence in training camp was a public relations bonanza for the team. “I know part of the reason I am here is for publicity,” Rheaume told the Tribune. “But it’s still a chance to play. That’s what I care about.”
Tampa Bay general manager Tony Esposito saw potential in Rheaume. “We’ll give her a serious look,” he told the Tribune. “This isn’t a joke.” Rheaume, however, did not make the team, and she never played in a regular-season NHL game.
In December 1992, Rheaume became the first woman to appear in a regular-season professional hockey game when she played for the Atlanta Knights of the International Hockey League. Rheaume also starred for the Canadian women’s national team.
Rheaume initially retired in 1997 but made a brief comeback for the 2008-09 season.