Female goalie scores a first for pro sports

September 24, 1992|By Orlando Sentinel

TAMPA, Fla. -- She hit the ice, conquered a few shots an along the way, Manon Rheaume made history.

Rheaume became the first female to play in a men's major professional sports league -- the National Football League, National Basketball Association, National Hockey League and major-league baseball -- starting as goalie for the Tampa Bay Lightning last night.

By crashing what had been an exclusively male fraternity for the past 75 years, Rheaume delighted a crowd of 8,223 at Expo Hall.

The Lightning (2-1-1) lost to St. Louis, 6-4, but it was no fault of Rheaume's. She left 20 minutes of action just as she had started it -- with the score deadlocked.

Rheaume, 20, faced nine shots and turned aside seven, turning in what coaches termed a steady performance as the Lightning and Blues skated to a 2-2 opening-period tie.

Lightning President and General Manager Phil Esposito announced afterward he will speak to Rheaume's agent about signing her to a contract today. "I want her to be in our organization for a long time," he said.

Rheaume said she welcomes the opportunity. Once signed, she will be assigned to the Atlanta Knights of the International Hockey League, the Lightning's top farm club.

Rheaume, who has been a goaltender since she was 5, said she stayed so focused on trying to stop the puck that she didn't allow herself to think about its being an NHL game.

"If I didn't come here to try, I don't know what I can do," said Rheaume, who is from Quebec and speaks English as a second language. "For me, hockey is a passion. And when you have this passion, you want to go higher.

Jacques Campeau, the Lightning scout who brought Rheaume to the attention of Esposito, wore a smile after Rheaume's performance.

"I think I was more nervous than she was," he said. "Not bad, eh?"

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