Breaking the Ice: The True Story of the First Woman to Play in the National Hockey League by Angie Bullaro with and Afterword by Manon Rhéaume, illustrated by C.F. Payne

Breaking the Ice: The True Story of the First Woman to Play in the National Hockey League 
by Angie Bullaro with and Afterword by Manon Rhéaume
Illustrated by C.F. Payne
Review Copy from Simon & Schuster
I don't know much about ice hockey and only slightly more about Canada. But I do know that, for many Canadians, ice hockey is embraced with a massive degree of fanaticism and participation that makes Manon Rhéaume's accomplishments all the more groundbreaking. Born in Quebec in 1972, Rhéaume watched her older brothers play hockey on teams coached by their father. Having played goalie for her brothers when they practiced in the backyard, it made sense to five-year-old Manon to ask to play goalie when a spot opened up on the team her father coached. 

Let me stop here and say that, as I read Breaking the Ice, I had to keep reminding myself what a huge, HUGE deal a GIRL playing HOCKEY was in 1977, which was around the same time that I played Little League with my younger brother on a team coached by my dad. I wasn't the only girl on the team, and while I unknowingly encountered sexism and possibly discrimination, me being there wasn't a big deal. There were other girls in the late 70s and 80s pushing boundaries and changing rules by playing football and wrestling with boys. Throughout Breaking the Ice, from telling readers that Manon's desire to play on her dad's team was "crazy," to her father telling her to keep her mask on at all times because, "people aren't ready to see a girl play on a boy's team," Bullaro lets readers know that Rhéaume, fueled by her passion for the sport, was facing opposition every step of the way. Yet, somehow, I wonder if American readers will realize the import of the barriers broken and the many firsts by Rhéaume?

From hearing, "No girl will ever play on my team," and, "She's taking our son's spot on the team," to being told by her father that she will have to work harder and be tougher than the boys, Rhéaume made history in 1984 by playing in the prestigious Quebec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament. The rules of the tournament had to be changed to allow Rhéaume to play. In 1991, she became the first woman to play in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. In 1992, as goalie for the Tampa Bay Lightning, Rhéaume became the first, and to this day ONLY, woman to play in the National Hockey League. In 1992, no woman had ever played a game in any of the top four male professional sports leagues in America - hockey, football, baseball and basketball - and Rhéaume remains the only woman to have broken this barrier to this day. 

Bullaro ends  Breaking the Ice with Rhéaume pulling down her mask and doing what she loves best as the 1992 game began. in the afterword Rhéaume recaps her accomplishments and tells readers that today, hockey has grown to accommodate girls with female leagues, scholarships to play in college, a pro hockey women's league and a chance to compete at the Olympic level. The time line of Rhéaume's life (so far) lists her achievements playing on both made dominated and female teams.


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