Manon Rheaume became the first woman to play in a regular-season professional hockey game when she appeared in the minor league Atlanta Knights’ contest against Salt Lake City on Sunday night.
Rheaume played the first 5:49 of the second period, stopping three shots, giving up one goal and having a second nullified by an interference penalty in Salt Lake City’s 4-1 International Hockey League victory over the Knights.
“I was a little bit nervous,” Rheaume said. “You learn by your mistakes. I’ll learn what to do.”
The 135-pound goalie drew a standing ovation from the crowd of 9,027 when she headed for the net to start the second period.
“It’s fun to know you’re not alone when the people are behind you,” she said. “But I didn’t have time to think about it.”
Rheaume, 20, had played the second period of an NHL exhibition game in September for the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Knights’ parent club, against the St. Louis Blues. She gave up two goals.
“This was different than the other game,” said Rheaume, who signed a three-year pro contract with the Knights. “The other game was an exhibition. It’s not the same. Gene told me before the game that I would play five minutes at the start of the second period.”
“It was just a chance for her to see the traffic and all that,” Knight Coach Gene Ubriaco said. “It’s not fair to judge her goals-against average. I think we’re looking at a three-year deal and I’m going to try not to take any shortcuts.”
Ubriaco said he told her and starting goalie David Littman of the plan before the game, but didn’t tell the rest of the team until after the scoreless first period.
When Littman gave up the third goal of the game, a fan stood and shouted, “Put the girl back in.”