Manon Rheaume

Manon Rheaume's nicknames are "Manny" and "Mayonnaise."

Manon Rheaume was a pretty little Canadian girl who had one objective in her life. She wanted to be the best goalie in the world. Not just the best goalie in women's hockey: To be the best in the whole world, male or female. And though many other Canadian girls have had the same dream, Manon was the first to make it happen. In a 1992 Tampa Bay Lightning pre-season game, she became the first woman to play on NHL ice. The Lightning must have seen something in her play, for they assigned Manon Rheaume to their top farm team, the Atlanta Knights.

What they may have seen was the pretty face, a dazzling smile, and an increased female fan base. It was obvious that Manon wasn't going to be a regular NHL goaltender. She was too small and wore down easily. Her puck handling was atrocious and she couldn't hold her own in brutal NHL traffic. But in the minor leagues, she had a chance to make a splash. Knights coach Gene Ubriaco gave her the opportunity to participate in a regular season game for the Knights on December 13, 1992 in Atlanta against the Salt Lake Golden Eagles. Manon relieved David Littman in net for the Knights, stopping two of the three shots she faced in the 4-1 Salt Lake victory.

Manon's next appearance with the Knights was a start in goal against the Kansas City Blades at home in the Omni. The game received international media attention as the first start by a woman in a regular season pro hockey game. Manon lost, surrendering six goals (two were charged as empty-net), and that was her last appearance for the Atlanta Knights.

Relations between Manon's camp and the Knights soured when she made a guest appearance on Late Night With David Letterman in 1993. She was supposed to have promoted the team, presenting Letterman with a cap and jersey, but did not, merely promoting herself. Shortly thereafter she was expelled from the Atlanta Knights camp and joined the Las Vegas Thunder, where the incumbent goaltender, Pokey Reddick, refused to share practice time with her. She also spent time with the Knights' ECHL affiliate in Nashville, posting two wins for the Nashville Knights.

There is little doubt today that Manon's good looks -- she resembles Justine Bateman -- contributed to her opportunities in the NHL and IHL. But she did open the doors for other women such as Erin Whitten and Hayley Wickenheiser to try their skills in minor league hockey or in Europe.

As a footnote, Manon's younger brother Pascal Rheaume was a member of the Atlanta Thrashers for two seasons.