EDMONTON — Canadian women’s hockey goaltender Shannon Szabados has gone from winning gold in Sochi to helping out the Edmonton Oilers.
The Team Canada goalie filled in at practice for the National Hockey League team Wednesday while the Oilers waited for Viktor Fasth to arrive after a trade with Anaheim.
Szabados, 27, said she got the invite Tuesday night after fans on Twitter tried to persuade the team to put her on the roster as backup goalie for its game against Ottawa.
“She might be the best goalie to play for us all season,” said one tweet under the hashtag SzabadosForBackup.
“Make history!” said another.
Szabados told reporters she was thrilled by the social media campaign, which trended nationally within an hour.
And although a goalie with the University of Alberta men’s team was chosen instead, Szabados said she was just as happy when the Oilers invited her onto their home ice for practice.
“The guys were good about it,” she said. “They were chirping me and I was giving it right back to them.”
Oilers captain Andrew Ference insisted Szabados change in the team’s locker room, she said.
“She’s pretty good,” said right winger Jordan Eberle. “Once you figure that out, you try and score and put in as many as you can.
“It’s great that she could step in and help us out.”
Szabados, who lives in Edmonton, became the first woman to play in the Western Hockey League and also helped the Canadian women’s hockey team win gold in Vancouver in 2010.
Her parents and husband were on hand at the Oilers practice to cheer her on.
“It was pretty cool,” said her father, Gary Szabados.
But he said he doubts that he’ll ever get to see his sports star daughter mind net in an NHL game.
“Women’s hockey has come a long way, but there’s still a lot of old-school thinking out there that the women can’t do it.”
No woman has ever played in an NHL regular-season game. Manon Rheaume became the first to play in an exhibition game with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992
Shannon Szabados agreed that she may never have the experience.
“If I was the last resort, then maybe,” she said.
She admits she’s hit the glass ceiling as far as women’s hockey goes. And that’s OK.
“As a hockey player, you just want to play the highest level possible and playing in Sochi, winning a gold medal, was fun. And taking part in an NHL practice was pretty cool.”
Oilers officials were too busy with Wednesday’s trade deadline to talk with her after practice, she said, so she’s not sure if she’ll be invited back.
“If they ever need me again, I’ll be here.”