Women have played hockey and pioneered innovations in the sport since the game took shape in the late 1800s. While the National Hockey League has remained a male-dominated enterprise, women have occasionally broken through with achievements to change the game.
Marguerite Norris was the first female executive in the NHL and the first woman to get her name on the Stanley Cup.
Norris was just 25, but had her late father’s business acumen when she became president of the Detroit Red Wings in 1952. In her three seasons at the helm (1952-1955) the Wings finished first three times and won two Stanley Cups.
It wasn’t easy. Wings GM Jack Adams insisted on calling her “dearie” and Toronto’s Conn Smythe tried to kick her out of board of governor meetings to keep them an all-male preserve.
The Vancouver-born composer and prodigious advertising jingle-writer sat down at her piano in Ontario in 1968, at the behest of “Hockey Night in Canada,” and delivered what has become famous as “The Hockey Theme.”
The instrumental ditty â€” with its percussive martial drumbeat, grand soaring horns, and crashing cymbals â€” evoked the titanic clash of warriors on ice and became the unofficial anthem of Canada’s game for over a generation until the CBC lost the rights in 2008.
It has been 25 years since Rheaume smashed through the barrier to become the first woman in North America’s big four pro sports to suit up and play.
The Quebec-born Rheaume was 20 when she skated out to a standing ovation for the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sept. 23, 1992, in a pre-season game against the St. Louis Blues. Rheaume was steady, but unspectacular, allowed two goals on nine shots and was replaced after the first period before going on to have a career in the minor leagues.
Kate Smith was already a legendary radio and TV mezzo-soprano singing star, since the days of the Depression, when she became a good-luck charm for the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Flyers, trying to jazz up the pre-game anthems in 1968 played Smith’s signature “God Bless America.” When they played it, the Flyers usually won, and Smith herself contributed to the legend appearing four times in person to sing before puck drop.
On May 19, 1974, she sang in person the night the Flyers won their first Stanley Cup.
Helen Hutchinson, an award-winning television news journalist, broke ground in the sports world in the mid-1970s when she signed on to the “Hockey Night in Canada” broadcast team.
Hutchinson, who learned the game at her father’s knee, conducted player interviews but only stayed for a year. She found balancing her TV news job, hockey, and family was too much.
Her work paved the way for female broadcasters to come, such as Cassie Campbell.
Women have occasionally been employed as contract workers in the NHL coaching ranks since the 1970s to help players improve their skating.
But Dawn Braid blazed a new trail in August 2016 when she landed a full-time coaching job with the Arizona Coyotes, the first such position held by a woman in the NHL. Braid grew up as a figure skater and for decades has worked with NHL teams and players, including John Tavares of the New York Islanders.
Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press