On September 23, 1992, Manon Rheaume became the first female to play in any major North American sports team when she came in to guard the goal in a scrimmage for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Rheaume left the game after one period, with the score tied at two. She blocked seven of nine shots taken by players on the St. Louis Blues. Unfortunately, she was never given more time in the NHL.
Despite the Lightning bringing Rheaume in for little more than a publicity stunt, her appearance opened the door for women who would follow in her footsteps.
Before her ’20 minutes of fame,’ Rheaume played in one Major Junior game for the Trois-Rivières, in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. As the backup, she was dressed to play but not expecting much time on the ice. She was called in when the opponent was making a comeback, eventually stopping a slap shot and coming out with a cracked mask. The cage scratched her eye and she didn’t notice until a break in play when she took the mask off and saw blood.
Phil Esposito just happened to be at the rink scouting another player, who he was not impressed by. Unaware of the gender of the goalie, he decided to ask her to participate in training camp.