When Ève Gascon stepped between the pipes for the QMJHL’s Gatineau Olympiques, she joined an elite group of groundbreaking women. In the Canadian Hockey League, only three women, Manon Rhéaume, Charline Labonté, and Shannon Szabados had appeared in a regular season CHL game prior to Gascon.
Gascon made 18-saves in a 5-4 overtime loss for Gatineau in her first appearance in the league.
"I can't even begin to describe what I was feeling," Gascon told media following the game. "I had my best friends and family in the crowd so it was really special; it was a great moment. I'm going to remember this for the rest of my life."
It was the first time a woman had appeared in a Canadian Hockey League game in almost two decades.
With Rhéaume, Labonté, and Szabados retired, Gascon is the only active woman who has played at the CHL level.
Rhéaume played one game for the Trois-Rivières Draveurs during the 1991-92 season. Szabados played a single game for the Tri-City Americans in 2002-2003.
Labonté had the longest CHL career playing 28 games for the QMJHL’s Acadie-Bathurst Titan over two seasons between 1999-2001.
The trio all went on to win World Championship gold medals, and represent Canada at the Olympics. If past performance is any indication, Gascon, who won silver backstopping Canada at the 2019 World U-18 Championships could be looked at as Canada’s go-to goaltender for the next decade.
With women having competed in both the QMJHL and WHL, the Ontario Hockey League is the only member of the CHL who has yet to see a woman play in a game.
This past summer, goaltender Taya Currie became the first woman selected in the OHL draft when Sarnia Sting chose her 267th overall. Unlike the other women in this elite group, however, Currie is unlikely to appear in a CHL game, as she committed to play NCAA hockey for Providence College, and playing in the CHL would forfeit that eligibility.
Gascon’s appearance can also be seen as a predictor of professional hockey.
Prior to the rise of women’s professional hockey, Manon Rhéaume appeared in the IHL, ECHL, and WCHL, as well as a preseason game for the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning. Szabados played professionally in both men’s and women’s hockey in the SPHL and NWHL, while Labonté played women’s pro hockey in the CWHL.
Other women have cracked the men’s professional ranks in net without previously competing in the Canadian Hockey League including Erin Whitten, Kelly Dyer, Danielle Dube, and Noora Raty, among others.
At 18-years-old, Gascon still has lots of QMJHL eligibility remaining, and already finds herself in elite company. Being mentioned in the same breath, and amassing similar accomplishments to Rhéaume, Labonté, and Szabados is no small feat, and has Gascon primed to remain a name to follow in hockey for years to come.