September 23, 2022 – Manon Ryome is here in Southern California, preparing for her first training camp as a member of the Los Angeles Kings Operations Hockey Team. Rheaume was appointed by more kings. In the summer as a hockey operations consultant / potential consultant. The most recent phase of her life falls with the Kings organization, which works on developing and evaluating players, specifically with the younger members of the organization.
September 23, 1992 – The situation of Manon Rheum is completely different. On this day, the mantra she wore was the Tampa Bay Lightning logo, and on her feet were skate shoes instead of boots. Riom made history, as she became the first woman to participate in an NHL pre-season game. Rheaume started the game and played the first period with Lightning expanding at the time, saving seven of the shots she faced and coming out with a 2-2 draw on the scoreboard.
The stats are what they are, a footnote after all these years, but the uniqueness of what Riom did all those years ago is what made this moment special. At the moment, that was the case. Moment. At that moment, Ryome was just a goalkeeper, looking to score as best she could. It took her years to truly realize the scale of what she has achieved, and the impact it has had on so much.
“Absolutely not,” she said, when asked if she understood the impact her NHL debut had on the hockey community. “30 years ago when I played in Tampa Bay, I was a little 20-year-old girl, and I had this amazing opportunity to pay to play for her experience in the NHL. I didn’t know it was going to change my life, but it totally changed my life. When I went to camp, I was there. Just to try my best and try to get as far as I can, and it wasn’t until years later that I realized how big a deal was.”
The moment was 20 minutes on the clock, but the resulting impact was far greater than the average NHL show game. What happened next was really what Ryum took from what she had done that night 30 years ago.
Hockey’s parents came to her and told her about the effect it had on their daughter, who was trying to play her part. It was his fellow members of the Target Association, who watched Réum play and were inspired to play for themselves. It’s for her children, who grew up playing in goal. It’s the endless stories about what those 20 minutes have done to others that really stuck with Rheaume.
“When parents come up to me and say, ‘You know you’re an inspiration to my daughter, or my son did a project on you at school or even an NHL goalkeeper he says to me, you know, when I saw you go to training camp, I said to myself if she could do it, I could do it’ I do it myself too,” Ryome said. “It was a really great feeling to realize that my story affected people in a positive way. And it will become the most satisfying thing of all I have done in hockey.”
Ryome went on to play in another pre-season game, the following season with Boston, but she will always be associated first and foremost with that debut with Lightning, as she was the first to do something special. She also believes her story has come a long way since she stepped on the ice in 1992.
At the time, the only story she saw externally was related to publicity and not merit. She believes that over time, the narrative changed to realize the fact that she had to hold herself during rehearsals to have a look during the show game.
“I think it changed a lot from back in ’92,” she recalls. “I remember the way people talked about my story in ’92 and the way they talk about it now, it’s a completely different story. Everyone was talking about it. [then] It was a publicity stunt for it, but no one is talking about the fact that I had to perform at a training camp to earn a start in an exhibition game. Tampa Bay wouldn’t have put me in an exhibition game if I was awful at training camp, but that wasn’t even relevant at the time, and they didn’t even care that part of it. Today, if someone were to talk about that story, they would talk more about that I had to do it to get to an exhibition game and I felt really good.”
It’s part of Rheaume’s experience from that first NHL training camp that she hopes she can pass on to some of the young players who attend camp today, the Los Angeles Kings of the future.
Ryome recalls her first day at Tampa Bay Lightning Camp, where Phil Esposito led a team meeting in the locker room the night before the first day of training. She remembers walking into the room and seeing the guys she grew up in Quebec watching as Tony McGigney, who was fifteen years her senior at the time.
She hopes that she can now use this experience to help younger players who might be in a similar situation find themselves walking into positions with the Stanley Cup champions in Los Angeles.
“I just had a moment of panic, thinking to myself ‘what am I doing here, do I have time to change my mind,’” she said with a laugh. “I was fine after the next day, but that little moment when I saw a guy who had played for many years in the NHL in the same room with you, It was overwhelming. I hope to benefit from this experience with some of these young players coming here, me [know] How they feel and if I relate to them, I think I can possibly help manage feeling that way.”
Riom believes her experience is just one of many when it comes to women working for NHL clubs on the hockey side.
With different ideas, a different approach, but a wealth of experience, she believes her appointment, along with so many other people around the NHL, is just a sign of things to come.
“I think one of the reasons a lot of organizations right now are looking to hire women is to offer different ideas, a different approach, and maybe a different way of connecting with people,” she said. “It’s not that one is better than the other, it’s just different and when you bring in different ideas that’s how you grow. Females who have been playing the game since they were young, have been all over the game, so I think it can be positive to find new ways of doing things” .