Canadian hockey player
In 1992, Manon Rheaume became the first woman to play in one of the United States' four major professional sports when she played goal for the National Hockey League's (NHL) Tampa Bay Lightning. Rheaume was also the first woman to play in a major junior hockey game. For much of her career, Rheaume played against boys and men, though she was also a member of several women's hockey teams for Team Canada.
Rheaume was born on February 24, 1972, in Lac Beauport, Quebec, Canada, the daughter of Pierre and Nicole Rheaume. Her father was a hockey coach who was in charge of the local outdoor rink. Rheaume had several brothers, including the youngest, Pascal, who later played in the NHL.
Rheaume began skating when she was three in a backyard rink her father built. She often practiced in goal at home when her father was practicing with her brothers. When she was five, she asked him if she could
play in a tournament in which he needed a goalie. He agreed, and Rheaume loved the competition. Though she also did ballet, skied, and played baseball, she told William Plummer of People, "I didn't just play hockey. It was my passion."
Played on Boys Teams
As a child, Rheaume played on boys teams at school and in youth leagues. At age eleven, she played at the International Pee Wee Hockey Tournament of Quebec, the first time a girl played. In 1991, she played for Loui-seville of Quebec Tier II junior hockey. For the last place team, Rheaume's goals against average was 8.88.
From an early age, Rheaume understood that getting respect of her teammates was important, and would lead to acceptance. As her Louiseville coach Yves Beaudry was quoted as saying by Brian McFarlane in Proud Past, Bright Future, "Manon was tough, very tough. She was a good team member. She never backed down."
On November 26, 1991, Rheaume became the first woman to play in a major junior hockey game. She played for Trois-Rivières Draveurs in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. In her first game, she went in mid-game of a tied game, and let three goals in on thirteen shots. Rheaume took a shot to the head, but stuck it out, though she was bleeding. This led to international attention, though she only played three games for the team.
Rheaume did not always play against males at this stage of her career. In 1992, she was in net for Canada's women team at the world championships. The team won gold, and Rheaume only gave up two goals in three games. There was some controversy over why she was on team: because she was known or because she earned it.
Trained with Lightning
In the fall of 1992, Rheaume was invited to the training camp of the expansion NHL team, the Tampa Bay Lightning. While it was done for publicity in part, she was also invited because of her talent. During one preseason game against the St. Louis Blues, she played for one period, allowing two goals on nine shots. After the pre-season, the team offered her a contract to play in their minor league organization, the Atlanta Knights. She signed a three-year deal that ensured she would not be exploited but developed as a hockey talent.
The tryout with Tampa Bay led to lots of publicity that Rheaume did not enjoy. She also did not speak much English, so the demands of her notoriety were hard on her in other ways as well. She told Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, "I did not ask for the attention, but it came to me, and it was very uncomfortable. I was there because I wanted to play hockey and make a living." The pressure led to three stomach ulcers over the next five years.
Rheaume continued to break down barriers. On December 13, 1993, she played in a regular season game for the Knights, against the Salt Lake City Golden Eagles. This was the first time a woman played in a regular season men's professional hockey game. She played for 5:49, allowing one goal on five shots. During the following season, she was given more seasoning by playing in the East Coast Hockey League. Played for Knoxville Cherokees, then traded to Nashville Knights. She earned her first professional victory with Knoxville during the season, a 9-6 victory over the Johnstown Chiefs. In three games she had a 2-0-1 record; with Nashville, a 3-0-0 record.
In 1994, Rheaume again played for the Canadian's women team at the World Championships in Lake Placid. But she continued to play primarily with men's teams as well. In 1994-95, she played for the Vegas Thunder of the International Hockey League and the Tallahassee Tiger Sharks (ECHL). During the summer of 1995, she played roller hockey with the New Jersey Rockin' Rollers, Roller International League. During summer of 1996, she again played pro roller hockey for the Ottawa Loggers and Sacramento River Rats (RHI). In 1996-97, she played for the Reno Renegades of the WCHL.
Won Olympic Silver
Though Rheaume was still a celebrity, this did not always ensure she would play on Canadian national women's teams. She was cut from the 1997 Canadian national women's team before the world championships. The coaches did not think she was hungry enough. Rheaume also had to readjust to the demands of the women's game; she played a more stand up style against men, butterfly against women. This cut forced her to improve her game, and led to her being chosen for the Olympic team. In 1998, she played for Team Canada at the Olympics in Nagano. Rheaume and the Canadian women won the silver medal, losing to the United States.
Rheaume sat out the 1998-99 season when she was pregnant with her son. She was married to Gerry St. Cyr, a roller hockey player and minor league hockey player, whom she later divorced. She remained connected to the game as she served as goaltending coach for the University of Minnesota-Duluth women's team. She also continued to practice with high level teams near her home. Originally, Rheaume planned on playing on the Canadian women's national team in 2000, but did not make team. She then retired from international play, and essentially her career as a goalie.
Rheaume was hired by Mission Hockey as head of global marketing for women's hockey. There, she helped develop hockey skates for women. She later became manager of apparel and special events for the company. Rheaume also coached a team of girls, the Mission Bettys, to the Quebec International Pee Wee Tournament.
After retiring as a goalie in 2000, Rheaume still played as a forward in a woman's professional league, the Montreal Wingstars of the National Women's Hockey League, for a short time. She continued to play recreational hockey as a forward. Of her most famous stint in hockey, with the Lightning, she told Martin Fennelly of the Tampa Tribune, "I just wanted to play. I didn't think about what it meant. Now I do."
|1972||Born February 24, in Lac Beauport, Quebec, Canada|
|1991||On November 26, becomes the first woman to play in a major junior hockey game|
|1992||Plays on Canada's women's national team, winning gold at the world championships; invited to training camp of the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning; first woman to play in professional game when she plays in a pre-season game for the Lightning|
|1993||On December 13, becomes first woman to play in regular season game; played for the Knights against Salt Lake City Golden Eagles|
|1994||Plays in the East Coast Hockey League for Nashville and Knoxville|
|1994||Plays on Canada's women's national team at world championships, winning gold|
|1994-95||Plays with the Vegas Thunder (IHL) and the Tallahassee Tiger Sharks (ECHL)|
|1995||Plays for the New Jersey Rockin' Rollers (RHI)|
|1996||Plays for the Ottawa Loggers and Sacramento River Rats (RHI); wins gold as member of the Canadian women's team at the Pacific Rim Three Nations Cup|
|1996-97||Plays for the Reno Renegades (WCHL)|
|1998||Plays for Team Canada at the Winter Olympics; wins silver medal; marries Gerry St. Cyr|
|1998-99||Sits out season due to pregnancy|
|1999||Gives birth to son Dylan; named goaltending coach for the University of Minnesota-Duluth women's team|
|2000||Retires as a goalie; begins working for Mission Hockey|
Awards and Accomplishments
|1992, 1994||Played on Canada's women's national team, winning gold at the world championships|
|1996||Won gold as member of the Canadian women's team at the Pacific Rim Three Nations Cup|
|1998||Played for Team Canada at the Winter Olympics; won silver medal|
SELECTED WRITINGS BY RHEAUME:
(With Chantal Gilbert) Manon: Alone in Front of the Net, HarperCollins, 1993.
Athletes and Coaches of Winter. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2000.
Johnson, Anne Janette. Great Women in Sports. Detroit: Visible Ink, 1996.
McFarlane, Brian. Proud Past, Bright Future: One Hundred Years of Canadian Women's Hockey. Stoddart, 1994.
Woolum, Janet. Outstanding Women Athletes: Who They Are and How They Influenced Sports in America. Oryx Press, 1998.
Adams, Alan. "Rheaume tends to a new job." Ottawa Citizen (October 8, 1999): B7.
Blackmar, Trisha, and Mark Bechtel. "First and fearless." Sports Illustrated (July 15, 2002): 116.
Bradley, Jeff. "Women's work." Sports Illustrated (December 30, 1991): 10.
Cleary, Martin. "Manon leaves net to have baby." Calgary Herald (October 6, 1998): D5.
Fennelly, Martin. "Rheaume's goal simply was to play hockey." Tampa Tribune (October 9, 2002): 1.
Long, Wendy. "Rheaume at home with Olympic team." Vancouver Sun (January 17, 1998): E2.
Plummer, William. "The puck stops here." People (September 28, 1992): 85.
"Rheaume hangs up pads." Gazette (July 9, 2000): B5.
Scanlon, Wayne. "Not just a pretty face." Gazette (February 14, 1998): C2.
Schultz, Jeff. "Groundbreaker in goal finds comfort out of the spotlight during Games." Atlanta Journal and Constitution (February 7, 1998): 2G.
Stubbs, Dave. "Rheaume trades pads for Pampers." Gazette (July 25, 1999): B5.
Vecsey, George. "The Goalie Who Just Wants to Improve." New York Times (October 18, 1992): section 8, p. 9.
Sketch by A. Petruso