DETROIT – She is the only woman to play in an NHL … albeit preseason games.
Now she is the only woman to play on the ice surface at Ford Field.
Manon Rheaume, a Canadian goalie, rose to fame in 1992 when she signed a professional contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning and saw time in two exhibition games with them. Rheaume also played in the WCHL, the ECHL, and the IHL, all with men.
She now lives in Michigan and was happy to participate in Monday’s media/celebrity hockey game, which also featured several Red Wings alumni.
The group of skaters tested the ice surface to uncover any problems before the NCAA’s Frozen Four begins team practices on Wednesday in advance of Thursday’s semifinal games.
“It’s awesome to be out there with all those guys,” Rheaume said. “A lot of those guys played in the NHL, played college hockey, and you’re out there skating with them. And playing in this field, it’s amazing. It takes you about 10 minutes to get back to your locker room, but it’s a great place.”
She was director of sales and marketing with the Central Collegiate Hockey Association in 2005. While she has since adopted more of a stay-at-home role after the birth of her second child, working on her foundation. But she still likes to occasionally to lace up the skates and stay involved in hockey.
CCHA commissioner Tom Anastos has played with her before, when they were co-workers. they played together again on Monday for the Team Blue.
“It’s neat because of her unique experience in this game,” Anastos said. “She’s done something no one else has ever done. From that perspective, it’s nice to have her out there and as you can see, she fits right in. She competes very hard, so she’s like one of the guys.”
On Monday, Rheaume abandoned her normal position to play forward, saying “I smartened up a little bit.
“You know, when you’re done, when you retire, most goalies like to play out. It’s our turn to score. We want to stay as far away as possible from our own net. … There’s no pressure, nobody expects anything from me.”
Rheaume plans to use her experience playing with men to help inspire young girls in the Detroit area.
“I was just at the Red Wings game last Saturday and we did something with the young Girl Scouts, and I met them and talked with them, and they were there to get introduced to hockey, because of my experience with the guys, you know, I’ve kind of become kind of a role model for girls, and I want to give back now.”