When asked what she thinks of potentially becoming the first woman to play in the National Hockey League, Shannon Szabados calmly replies, "stranger things have happened." Although to us, her trailblazing career—and her athletic talent—are no less exceptional. Coming off Canada's winter olympic gold medal win, Szabados has just signed with the the Columbus Cottonmouths of the Southern Professional Hockey League—the first woman to do so in the league's ten year history. And this isn't her first "first"—at 16 she was the first woman to play in the Western Hockey League.
And let's make it known: It is markedly more challenging for a woman to make a living as professional hockey player, especially since there is no professional women's league to provide female players with a stable wage. One either has to fit training in between part time jobs or find work in a professional men's league.
Her teammates are thrilled to work with her, noting her athleticism and talent. “I just think everything’s changing,” Cottonmouth's coach and general manager Jerome Bechard said of his new hire. “I guess equal opportunity’s the word. In my opinion, if you can play, it doesn’t matter what color, what nationality, what gender you are.