Tampa Bay General Manager Phil Esposito explains how he first became aware of Rheaume: "I was up in Montreal looking at players and we went to this Junior A game and somebody said they wanted me to see this player. I saw the guy and I didn't think he was very good. I said "I like the little goalie." I didn't know it was a woman, and neither did my scout. I said, "I want to go talk to that goalie. He's got something." So I go down to talk to him and she walked out. I nearly flipped. I said, "Oh my God, she's gorgeous. Who is that girl?" They said, "That's the goalie."
During that training camp, I signed Manon Rheaume to come and play for us. Manon was a goaltender, and she was a beautiful young woman.I found Manon through Jacques Campeau. Jacques was the one who convinced me to sign Manon Rheaume. We went up to a women's tournament and watched her play. "Play her," he said. "The publicity will be great." I agreed with him. And so when we opened up camp in Lakeland, Manon was on the squad. As a result, CBS, NBC and ABC all were there talking about the first woman goaltender ever to play in an NHL game.Head coach Terry Crisp hated that Manon was on the team. So did my brother Assistant GM Tony Esposito, which may have been the only time they agreed on anything. Even Assistant Coach Wayne Cashman hated it. Cash would give me the evil eye. I'd say to him, "We're doing it. That's it." A lot of the scouts hated it too. They players didn't like it much either.I told Manon, "You have to go out with the guys. You have to be part of the team." They took her to dinner and for a few beers.I wanted to play her because there was nothing to lose and everything to gain. This wasn't Ottawa or Toronto or Boston or New York. This was Tampa, Florida. No other person would have even tried to start hockey here. I was the right guy at the right time to do this. Was in innovative? Some people thought so. Others thought it was crazy. I knew we weren't going to win, so my idea was to promote the team in any way I could to put people in the seats. If I had staked everything on the team's record, we would have had three thousand people in the building, and most of those would have been relatives.Manon wasn't a bad goalie, but she was gorgeous and too much of a model to stay in the game. There was no harm in letting her come to camp and play. When I told Crispy I wanted her to play half a game, he just about died."Oh no, we're a laughingstock as it is," he said."Terry, you are going to play her," I said. "And we're going to publicize it."Even though the players didn't want her to play, the all fought to room with her. We gave her her own dressing room.She played half a game against St. Louis during training camp at the Fairgrounds. The place was jammed. They were sitting up in the rafters. An unbelievable number of women came to that game. Brett Hull, who had one of the hardest shots in the game, was shooting bullets at her, and she stood right in there.Bobby Plager, the coach of the Blues, said to me, "I've instructed my boys to shoot at the five hole," meaning just below the crotch."Bobby, you pig," I said.During the game, Rob Ramage, one of our defensemen, an older guy, a class guy, wouldn't let any of the Blues players get near her. He was right there to protect her.During practice Manon pulled a muscle in her lower back. The trainer, Larry Ness, said to me, "What do I do?" I said, "You do the same as you'd do with a guy. But you better not get a hard-on."He was rubbing her back and her ass, and the guys were peeking through the curtain trying to see her naked.At the end of training camp, I sent her to Atlanta as the backup goalie for our International Hockey League team. She played once in a while and was okay. They ended up winning the championship. She went on to play on the 1998 Canadian Olympic team, which Canada lost to the United States. Manon made a good living speaking and signing autographs. They made a movie about her. Sure I exploited her, but it was good for her too.
She was also back in the IHL in 1994-95, playing in two games for the Las Vegas Thunder. Two seasons later, Rheaume was once again the pro ranks, appearing in 11 games for the Reno Renegades of the West Coast Hockey League with a 2-3-1 record.
In 1995-96, the team changed to a three color paintbrush font for the numbers and a vertically arched, bold block font for the names. Finally, in 2001-02, the team reverted back to their original font for the numbers, only now in three colors without a drop shadow paired with a simple one color block font for the names in what was a rather pedestrian look compared to the unique looks that preceded it.
Next, a feature "The Woman Behind the Mask" about her experience with the Lightning.