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Rheaume's life will be told in new movie

Women's sports pioneer turned hockey mom has support of ESPN's Cohn

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- Sept. 23, 1992 was a day Manon Rheaume will never forget.

That's when Rheaume, a goalie, became the first woman to play for a professional hockey team. During a preseason game, Rheaume played one period for the Tampa Bay Lightning against the Boston Bruins.

"I remember that walk from the locker room to the ice," Rheaume told Tuesday. "My heartbeat was beating like crazy, but I got on the ice and the butterflies went away. I was just out there playing the game."

Rheaume also played a preseason game for the Lightning in 1993, and spent six seasons in four men's leagues playing a total of 26 games (1991-92, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League; 1992-93, International Hockey League; 1993-94, ECHL; 1994-95, ECHL, IHL, Pacific Southwest Hockey League; 1996-97, West Coast Hockey League; 2008-09, IHL).

Her story inspired many, including writer/actress/producer Angie Bullaro, who approached Rheaume about making a movie on her life. The movie, called "Between the Pipes," will star Bullaro as Rheaume.

"I really wanted to do a sports story, a true story with a strong female, and I vaguely remembered that all these women played in the NHL when I was younger, and then I researched and found out it wasn't 'all these women,' it was just her," said Bullaro, who is getting goaltending tips from retired NHL goalie Steve Valiquette. "I researched her a lot and she lives close to where I grew up, so I said, 'I had to do this.'"

Rheaume was surprised to be approached about the film. She also was happy to have ESPN anchor, and avid hockey fan and player, Linda Cohn joining the project as a consultant. Cohn also was a goalie, including for her college team at SUNY Oswego, prior to Rheaume's debut.

"It's amazing," Rheaume said. "When they told me [Linda] wanted to be a part of this, I was excited because I always look up to her and watched her doing what she was doing as a reporter. To have her now be a part of it and supporting it is really cool."

Fast forward 24 years from when Rheaume played in an NHL preseason game. Women's hockey is now a sport in the Olympics, women are getting collegiate scholarships to play, and the National Women's Hockey League began its inaugural season last fall. Rheaume dropped the ceremonial first puck prior to the opening game.

"I just watched the World Championships this year and I can't believe how the game grew and how much faster the girls are, and how much fun it is to watch a national game like that," said Rheaume, who won a silver medal with Canada at the 1998 Nagano Olympics. "It's fun to see now that the NWHL came out and girls get Division I scholarships. The game has come a long way."

Cohn said she thought she could relate to Rheaume because she joined ESPN's "SportsCenter" in 1992, one of the first women to do so.

"I was breaking into the boys club, so to speak, at ESPN," Cohn said, "but even before that, I was a girl who turned to hockey, turned to goalie of all things, to come out of my shell.

"I realized I was good at it. When I made the boys team in high school -- I was the only girl -- I was the backup goalie and I played about eight games. When the coach told me I made the team, I said to him, 'I won't let you down,' because I realize what a risk he took on this team. That experience, not letting people influence you or your dream by what they say or what they do, helped me take the next step in my career."

Rheaume was just living out her dream and didn't know how many people she was influencing.

"One of the coolest things about this is the impact my story had, to know that it had a positive impact on people," said Rheaume, who grew up in Quebec and said Dan Bouchard was her favorite goalie. Bouchard played for the Quebec Nordiques from 1980-85 and had 286 wins during a 14-year NHL career.

Rheaume has two sons, and each plays hockey. Dylan, 16, is a goalie with the U.S. National Development Team and committed to the University of Michigan. Dakoda, 8, chose to play forward.

"I'm just their mom," Rheaume said. "[Dylan has] his goalie coach, but for the mental aspect of the game, he does ask me questions. Dakoda is a young age, so I coached him when he was younger, but now I want someone else to coach him."

Rheaume, 44, is approaching the 25-year anniversary of her debut next fall. The movie about her is scheduled to come out in 2017. 

"I think a lot of people don't really know Manon's story," Cohn said. "The first and only other time I met her was at a charity event by Luc Robitaille, and I was so excited that she was going to be there. I played goal, and of course, she played forward. I told her she lived my dream even though I'm older than her. She reminds me that she scored on me during that game."

Rheaume was at Barclays Center for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Second Round series between the Lightning and New York Islanders. She lives in Detroit and was recently hired by the Detroit Red Wings to help with the Little Caesars hockey program, which aims to grow youth hockey and girls hockey in the area.

"It's important," she said. "It's not only that I want to help the game because I love the game, it's also important for girls to be a part of sports to help them later in life either in sports or in school, helping them to learn about hockey and the life lessons they are going to take from that."

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