A female goalie is getting an NHL opportunity — in practice.
Canadian Shannon Szabados, the starter for the last two Olympic champion teams, was called in to practice with the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday, according to the team’s social media accounts.
The Oilers are short on goalies after trading Ilya Bryzgalov and getting Viktor Fasth in a separate deal, both on Tuesday. Szabados got the practice time because Fasth had yet to arrive, according to this tweet:
Szabados said last year her goal after the 2014 Olympics was to play men’s professional hockey.
“Being a girl, I don’t think anyone’s going to just offer up an opportunity,” she told the Canadian Press. “Probably have to do some digging and get an in some where.
“I think it’s something I would regret if I didn’t at least try.”
“I really like Shannon as a goaltender,” MacTavish said, according to the newspaper. “I think she had the goaltending performance of the year.
“I’ve spoken with her a few times over the years. I saw her play against my son at the midget level a couple of years ago – she shut him down a couple of times on a couple of glorious chances – so I have a good appreciation of her level as a goaltender. She’s very capable. To have her name enter the discussion when we’re talking about that is a real accomplishment to her and her level of play.
“Yeah it would be something that we’d consider but not at this point in time.”
Szabados, 27, is not seen as the world’s best women’s goalie. That distinction goes to Finland’s Noora Raty, who led Minnesota to an undefeated season last year and an NCAA Championship.
But Szabados was statistically the best goalie at the Sochi Olympics, giving up three total goals for a 0.96 goals-against average and a .954 save percentage.
She also has plenty of experience playing against men. The Canadian Press detailed her experience in a feature last year:
Szabados just completed her fifth year of college eligibility with her hometown Northern Alberta Institute of Technology men’s team. The Ooks won their first Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference championship in 16 years.
Szabados posted a 15-2 record during the regular season and carried the league’s lowest goals-against average at 1.58. She was 6-0 in the post-season with a save percentage of .930.
Prior to playing in the ACAC, Szabados spent five years in the Junior A men’s Alberta Junior Hockey League for Sherwood Park, Bonneyville and Fort Saskatchewan.
She was named the AJHL’s top goaltender in 2007 after helping Fort Saskatchewan to a 45-11-4 record in her final season. Szabados played for the Grant MacEwan men for three seasons before transferring to NAIT for the last two.
Canadian 1998 Olympic goalie Manon Rheaume is the only woman to play in the NHL, doing so in exhibition games in 1992 and 1993.