It was known that the Columbus Cottonmouths of the Southern Professional Hockey League had made an offer to Canadian Gold Medalist Shannon Szabados to become the team’s goaltender, but now it’s been discovered that she has, in fact, accepted the offer.
“I am very excited to get a world-class athlete that has competed and has faced high-pressured situations,” Columbus coach Jerome Bechard told NHL.com. “Shannon has won at every level she has played, in women’s hockey or men’s hockey.”
Szabados had a 0.96 GAA and .954 save percentage for Canada in the Olympics. She now will become the first women to play in the SPHL.
The 27-year old goaltender made headlines last week after practicing with the Edmonton Oilers, who needed a goalie after trading away Ilya Bryzgalov. Afterwords, Columbus, who sits seventh (out of 10) in the SPHL standings, immediately called to begin negotiations.
This isn’t the first time that Szabados will compete in a men’s league. She was the first woman to play in the Western Hockey League when she got into one game for the Tri-City Americans in 2002-03; she was the first woman to play in the Alberta Junior Hockey League; she played for Northern Alberta Institute of Technology last season. Three of her teammates from college (Andy Willigar, Kyle Johnson and Jordan Draper) all play for Columbus.
“She won a championship with NAIT last year alongside Andy Willigar and Jordan Draper, so I know she can compete at this level,” Bechard said. “We are working on her immigration and we are looking to sign her officially Thursday [March 13], where she will be backing up Loewen. She will play when she feels comfortable and situated.”