A little bit of history was made in the Southern Professional Hockey League on Saturday, December 26 when the Columbus Cottonmouths defeated the Huntsville Havoc. Cottonmouths goalie Shannon Szabados became the first female goaltender to record a shutout in a men’s professional hockey game. Szabados turned away all 33 of the Havoc’s shots to pick up the 3-0 victory for her Cottonmouth teammates.
Szabados in her second season with the Cottonmouths has played in 39 games since the 2014-2015 SPHL season, starting in 38 of them. She holds an 18-16-4 record with a 3.29 goals against average and .907 save percentage in her career with the Cottonmouths.
The two-time gold medal winning Canadian Olympic Women’s Hockey team netminder posted a 0.33 GAA and .980 save percentage at the 2010 Vancouver games and a .096 GAA and .954 save percentage at the Sochi Olympics.
Saturday night’s shutout helped Szabados bounce back from her previous outing in which she gave up seven goals in a 51-shot shellacking by the Peoria Rivermen just a week before.
There have been other women that have suited up in the men’s pro ranks, Manon Rheume being the most famous when she became the first woman to play in a National Hockey League preseason game with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992.
Neither Rheume, who played in 22 games within various leagues at the professional ranks, including the old International Hockey League, nor Erin Whitten, a U.S. Olympian who played within 17 games at the men’s professional level between 1993 and 1995, were able to record a shutout.
2015 has been an important year for women’s hockey, as the National Women’s Hockey League made its debut, becoming the first paid women’s league when they dropped the puck in the fall. The Canadian Women’s Hockey League has also continued to put out a strong product.
Both leagues have helped to create more exposure for the women’s game, creating more opportunity for its players to continue their careers after finishing with the National Collegiate Athletic Association or Canadian University programs.
The SPHL may not be one of the top tier minor leagues, with 10 teams primarily based in the Southeastern United States, but Szabados could be considered a trailblazer for other top female players as well.
As she serves as her team’s starting netminder, her presence with the club may help with its exposure, but it also proves it is not just a sideshow to sell more tickets either.