TAMPA, Fla. — This offseason, the Los Angeles Kings hired Manon Rheaume as a hockey operations and prospect advisor. Her main focus will be on preparing draft picks and other young players for handling life as a pro.
Rheaume made history in 1992 when she played in an exhibition game for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Manon, who was 20 at the time, was a world-class goalie in the women's game, so she earned her invitation to preseason workouts. Former Bolts head coach Terry Crisp said his players didn't go easy on the new kid.
"Those guys treated her like any other goalie in training camp," Crisp said via video chat. "They were firing pucks at her head. They were firing pucks wherever they had to. She withstood it as good as anyone you could’ve asked for."
"Probably the most nervous I’ve ever been in my life. My heart was beating so hard," Rheaume said as she remembered her first game with the Lightning. "But the cool thing is I stepped on the ice, and the butterflies went away, and I was just playing a hockey game."
Manon played one exhibition game that season and another in 1993. She went on to play a handful of seasons with other men's minor league teams. Rheaume is a two-time world champion with a Team Canada squad that took silver in the 1998 Winter Olympics. Her post-playing career included everything from coaching youth hockey to college hockey, and working as analyst for the Detroit Red Wings. Rheaume has been a constant role model for young women who refuse to take "No" for an answer.
"I think so many times people said 'No' to me, and I had to work harder to become part of what I’m doing," Rheaume said. "So if you’re a female, and that’s something you’re really passionate about, you just need to keep going."
If anyone has the resume to help prepare young men and women for a professional career, it's Rheaume.
"Between coaching boys and girls, and being a mom of hockey players, and playing the game. I feel I have the tools to help some of those young prospects that are going to be playing in the NHL," she added. Rheaume also said a woman's voice in a predominantly male sport in beneficial simply because it's a different voice.
"Things that may seem important to us may not be to a man, or vice versa. None of them is better than the other one, it’s just different. And when you bring all kinds of different ideas, I think that’s beneficial, to find different solutions," said Rheaume.
Manon's former coach, Terry Crisp, has no doubt that she's the right person for her new position.
"If you’re looking for a trail blazer and lady who’s done it, she is the one," Crisp added.