It’s been an exciting ride for Shannon Szabados since February: an epic gold medal win at the Olympics with the Canadian National Team, a Twitter trend to rally for her backing up Ben Scrivens at an Edmonton Oilers game, and practicing with the Edmonton Oilers. Szabados has another “first woman to …” under her belt as she joined three of her previous NAIT teammates and played her first game with her new team, the Columbus Cottonmouths, in the Southern Professional Hockey League. She is the first woman to play a game in the SPHL.
Being the first woman to play with the boys is nothing new to Szabados: at a young age she became the first female to play in tournaments such as The Brick Novice Tournament and Calgary Mac’s Midget AAA Tournament. She then continued on to become the first female to play in the Western Hockey League, playing a game with the Tri-City Americans backed up by none other than Carey Price. The AJHL was the next feat for Szabados where she played 5 seasons and won multiple awards including the League’s Top Goaltender in 2007. On non-Olympic years Szabados played for the men’s MacEwan Griffins and NAIT Ooks, leading the Ooks to an ACAC Championship in the 2012/2013 season.
Szabados is off to a good start on her new team — making 27 saves on 31 shots — despite their 4-3 loss tonight. Besides the awful video stream and the questionable commentators who butchered her name on a variety of occasions and attempted some awful Canada jokes, it was a good game. Szabados looked comfortable in the blue paint and shut down some prime scoring chances from the Knoxville team but her team just couldn’t notch the win. If anything, this game showed that she is more than capable of competing at this level.
Like she said in her Oiler’s interview after practicing with the NHL team, she’s “just another player on the ice with maybe a little longer hair than the rest of them” (though Smytty & Jonesy give her quite the competition in that department). Szabados is paving the way for women: she’s breaking barriers that some people deemed impossible, and women everywhere are thanking her. Thanks for making Edmonton, Canada, and female athletes everywhere proud, Shannon.