Shannon Szabados has gotten a lot of buzz in hockey circles lately after she backstopped Canada to another gold medal in women's hockey at the Olympics. She was also recently utilized in an Edmonton Oilers practice while the team was waiting on new acquisition Viktor Fasth to arrive from Anaheim. Turns out, Szabados is going to do more than practice in men's pro hockey, though.
Szabados tweeted Friday that she is joining the Columbus (Ga.) Cottonmouths of the Southern Professional Hockey League.
The team then confirmed they plan to sign her once immigration paperwork clears.
“I am very excited to get a world class athlete that has competed and has faced, high pressured situations. Shannon has won at every level she has played, in women's hockey or men's hockey,” head coach Jerome Bechard said. “We are working on her immigration, and we are looking to sign her officially Thursday, where she will be backing up Loewen. She will play when she feels comfortable and situated.”
The 27-year-old Edmonton native has played with men before, including four years of junior A hockey in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. She also played on the men's side in college, most recently with the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. Three current Cottonmouths players were teammates of Szabados' at NAIT.
Szabados made three appearances for Canada at the Olympics, including in the gold-medal game against Team USA. She finished with a 0.96 goals-against average and .953 save percentage. She was also between the pipes for Canada's last gold-medal win in 2010.
While she was in Edmonton to be honored by the Oilers for her Olympic accomplishments Tuesday, a Twitter campaign started the day previously advocated for Szabados to serve as the Oilers' emergency backup. That was after Ilya Bryzgalov was shipped out to the Minnesota Wild and there was no one to back up Ben Scrivens. The Oilers went with a goaltender from the University of Alberta instead, but invited Szabados to their Wednesday practice.
The SPHL is a single A professional league based in the Southeastern United States. Szabados will be the first woman to suit up in a game in the league's 10-year history.
The Cottonmouths are currently in seventh place in the 10-team league and rank eighth in goals allowed this season.
Women's hockey players don't get many opportunities like this, but it has happened before. Goaltender Manon Rheaume became the first woman to play professional hockey and appeared in 25 total games with eight different teams with pretty poor stats.
This may just be a publicity stunt, but Szabados definitely has talent and a lengthy resume against men. It's going to be interesting to see how she fares when she gets into the lineup.