Women's hockey becomes the focus of the World Hockey Summit on Thursday. Which reminds me of something I wish we were seeing this NHL training camp.
Eighteen years ago this training camp we saw the first female player attend a NHL training camp. Goaltender Manon Rheaume became an instant household name by participating in a NHL exhibition game and later playing in the minor leagues.
Since then a few female players have played in men's professional hockey, but none have ever come close to the NHL ever again.
My question - how long before we see another female player - almost certainly a goaltender - in a NHL setting?
We almost saw exactly that back in March 2010. The Edmonton Oilers ran into goaltending injury problems. Caught in a pinch for a game against the Vancouver Canucks, the Oilers called upon a third string goaltender from the University of Calgary named Nathan Deobold to back up that night.
At the time there was a minor uproar as fans had hoped the Oilers would choose female goalie Shannon Szabados, who a few weeks earlier led Canada to an Olympic gold medal at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.
Szabados has to be an upgrade on a third string CIS goalie who apparently rarely practiced let alone played. She took the snub hard.
"It's brutal," said Szabados. "I'm just so disappointed ... it's the story of my life, being a girl goaltender. They don't give you the opportunity. That shows you right there."
It is time for another NHL team to give a female goalie an opportunity. A Canadian NHL team should invite Szabados or another top Canadian goalie to training camp, if for no other reason, to give the Canadian women's team and the goalie of choice a chance to improve. Reward a Canadian Olympic hero and at the same time give young girls another reason to dare dream of hockey, too.
There is a small but growing amount of pressure on the NHL to give back to women's hockey. This would be an an nice start.
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