Goaltending has always fallen on the shoulders (and pads) of one individual of a team. It takes a certain type of individual willing to put themselves in front of a fast flying slapshot. Offense and defense are integral parts of the game, but neither can completely make up for the lack of solid goaltending (see Pittsburgh Penguins 2011-12 Playoff Run).
That last statement is one that Tampa Bay fans know all too well. Over the next few articles I will take a look at a number of the netminders that were key parts in Lightning history, from Pat Jablonski to Anders Lindback.
For this first installment I want to honor Manon Rhéaume, the first (and so far the last) woman to play in a NHL game.
In 1992 the Tampa Bay Lightning would become the southern-most hockey team to compete in an NHL season (until 1993, Florida Panthers). Aside from that historic marker, the Lightning would also be the first NHL organization to have a female hockey player try to make the team, Manon Rhéaume. For her efforts she was signed as a free agent, another first for females in the NHL.
Already making history, Rhéaume would go on to play in two exhibition games with the Lightning. The first against the St. Louis Blues and the second against the Boston Bruins. Unfortunately she never made an appearance for the Bolts during the regular season, but would continue to play in traditionally men’s professional leagues such as the ECHL, IHL, and WCHL.
Aside from her accomplishments in the men’s game, she was a member of the Canadian Women’s National Hockey Team. She would go on to win gold in the IIHF World Women’s Championships twice in 1992 and 1994, in addition to a silver medal in the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics.
Following her successes in the crease, Rhéaume would found the Manon Rhéaume Foundation to “…inspire young girls to reach for their dreams while overcoming obstacles…”
The Tampa Bay Lightning continue to espouse the drive and tenacity of Manon Rhéaume. Though they may be from the sunbelt, the Bolts (their fans and Manon Rhéaume) know their way around NHL ice.
– Jim Courteau
Follow me on Twitter @BlackSheepJim
Next in net: Pat Jablonski