Manon Rhéaume (born February 24, 1972) is a Canadian ice hockey goaltender. An Olympic silver medalist, she achieved a number of historic firsts during her career, including becoming the first and only woman ever to play in a National Hockey League exhibition game.
In 1992 Rhéaume signed a contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning of the NHL, appearing in a preseason exhibition game in 1992. She spent five years in professional minor leagues, playing for a total of seven teams and appearing in 24 games. She also played on the Canada women’s national ice hockey team, winning Gold Medals at the IIHF Women’s World Championship in 1992 and 1994, and the Silver Medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics.
Rhéaume was born in Lac-Beauport, Quebec to Nicole and Pierre Rhéaume. She has one older brother, Martin, and one younger, Pascal, who was a center for the NHL’s New Jersey Devils.
She played for the Sherbrooke Jofa-Titan squad in the League Régionale du Hockey au Féminin in the province of Québec. Rhéaume was signed to the Trois-Rivières Draveurs in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, one of Canada’s top junior ice hockey leagues, for the 1991-1992 season, becoming the first woman ever to play in a men’s Junior A hockey game.
In 1992 she tried out for the Tampa Bay Lightning, and was signed as a free agent. This was the first time a woman tried out for an NHL team or signed a pro-level hockey league contract. She played one period in an exhibition game against the St. Louis Blues, allowing two goals, and played in another exhibition game against the Boston Bruins in 1993.
Also in 1992 she was selected for the Canada national women’s ice hockey team. She won gold medals at the 1992 and 1994 IIHF Women’s World Championships, and was named to the All-Star team both years. She won the Silver Medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano.
In 1992 she was signed by the Atlanta Knights of the International Hockey League (IHL). Her first appearance against the Salt Lake Golden Eagles marked the first time a woman appeared in a regular season professional game. She played for seven different teams between 1992 and 1997, including Atlanta, the Knoxville Cherokees, Nashville Knights, the Las Vegas Aces, the Tallahassee Tiger Sharks, Las Vegas Thunder, and the Reno Renegades, appearing in a total of 24 games. While in Atlanta, Manon wrote her autobiography – Manon: Alone In Front Of The Net. Rhéaume initially retired from professional hockey in 1997.
For the 1999-2000 season, she was the goaltending coach of the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs women’s ice hockey program. In 2000 she entered into the business world, serving as marketing director for Mission Hockey in Irvine, California, for three years, developing and promoting girls’ hockey equipment. She later worked in marketing at the Powerade Iceport in Milwaukee and with the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.
In October 2008, the IHL’s Port Huron Icehawks announced that they going to have Manon Rhéaume take part in their training camp activities and will play for at least a period of the team’s exhibition season opener. On April 3, 2009, Rhéaume suited up for one game with the Flint Generals IHL team. She has been with the practice team since January, filling in for their regular goalie. Rhéaume is the third woman to play for the Generals.
She played for the Minnesota Whitecaps in 2009, and helped lead them to the Clarkson Cup finals. On March 19, the Whitecaps, with Rhéaume in net, beat the Montreal Stars in a playoff game by a score of 4-3 in overtime, with Kim St. Pierre in net for the Stars. During the 2008-09 WWHL season, Rhéaume’s Whitecaps took two of three games from the Calgary Oval X-Treme. Those losses snapped a string that saw the X-Treme go two years without tasting defeat in the regular season.
Media and popular culture
She guest-starred as herself in the made-for-TV movie A Beachcombers Christmas with Tiger Williams and Jyrki Lumme. At the height of her popularity, she was approached to pose for Playboy Magazine, which she refused.
In 2011, she took part in the Quebec TV show Le défi des champions (Champions’ Challenge), a show that trained eight Quebec athletes (such as Isabelle Charest, Bruny Surin, Marc Gagnon, Marie-Andrée Lessard, Étienne Boulay, Nathalie Lambert and Mathieu Dandenault) to the art of the circus. Manon performed very well in each of her disciplines.
Manon Rhéaume was married to Gerry St-Cyr, a roller hockey player and minor league hockey player in June 1998, whom she later divorced. Gerry and Manon have one son, Dylan. In 1999, she was hired by Mission Hockey as head of global marketing for women’s hockey. One of her projects was helping develop hockey skates for women. Rhéaume formed the Manon Rhéaume Foundation in 2008, which provides scholarships for young women.