Friday, December 15, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Goalie Manon Rheaume time with Lightning has lasting impact

It took 20 years, but Manon Rheaume finally has some peace.

The goal she allowed in her first Lightning game, to Blues defenseman Jeff Brown, wasn't such a softy after all.

"I always thought it was a goal from between the red line and the blue line," Rheaume said.

But in September, on the 20th anniversary of becoming the only woman to play for an NHL team, Rheaume watched the highlights revived on TV and the Internet.

"He actually crossed the blue line and took a few strides before he lined up for the slap shot," she said of Brown. "I was like, 'That's not really too bad of a goal.' "

"It took me 20 years," Rheaume added, laughing, "to sleep better."

Good goal or bad, Rheaume's story is part of hockey lore.

Added to Tampa Bay's inaugural 1992 training camp as what team founder Phil Esposito acknow­ledged was a publicity stunt, Rheaume not only held her own, she inspired a generation of hockey-playing girls.

"The whole experience was amazing, but the most rewarding thing is having an impact in young girls' lives," said Rheaume, 40, who lives outside Detroit with sons Dylan, 13, and Dakota, 6. "I didn't realize it back then. But later in life, getting a bunch of letters and emails, that is the most rewarding thing when you can have a positive impact."

Rheaume also attended the Lightning's 1993 camp. She played one preseason period each year, allowing five goals on 20 shots. In her history-making first game — Sept. 23, 1992, against the Blues at Tampa's Expo Hall — Rheaume allowed two goals on nine shots.

She went on to win gold with Canada at the 1992 and '94 world championships and silver at the 1998 Olympics. She also was the first woman to appear in a regular-season professional game, in 1992 with Atlanta of the now-defunct International Hockey League.

It is Rheaume's time with Tampa Bay, though, that is most remembered. She still has her jersey and mask, and the fame helped her in 2008 launch the Manon Rheaume Foundation, which provides scholarships to college-bound female athletes.

"When someone told me I was invited (to Tampa Bay's training camp), I didn't care why," Rheaume said. "So many times people said no because I was a girl. If someone said yes because I was a girl, I was going to take the invitation."

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