March 08, 2014 - 4:41 AM
EDMONTON - Canadian women's hockey goaltender Shannon Szabados is planning to sign with a professional men's team in the United States.
The Olympic gold medallist announced on Twitter that she has agreed to play with the Columbus Cottonmouths of the Southern Professional Hockey League.
"Well here goes nothing," Szabados tweeted on Friday. "Heading to the @SPHL to join the @Cottonmouths for the remainder of their season. See you on the 12th guys! #snakes"
Szabados, 27, was in the news earlier this week when she filled in at practice for the Edmonton Oilers while the NHL team waited for Viktor Fasth to arrive after a trade with the Anaheim Ducks.
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.
"Thanks for all the support, im overwhelmed!," she tweeted later in the day. "Cant wait to sign my first pro contract and get back on the ice. #snakes."
Szabados previously played provincial college hockey (at Northern Alberta Institute of Technology) with current Cottonmouth players Jordan Draper, Andy Willigar and captain Kyle Johnson. She will become the first woman to play in the SPHL since its inception 10 years ago.
"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 in a release. "She won a championship with NAIT last year alongside Andy Willigar and Jordan Draper so I know she can compete at this level.
"We are working on her immigration, and we are looking to sign her officially Thursday, where she will be backing up (Andrew) Loewen. She will play when she feels comfortable and situated."
The Cottonmouths plan to formally introduce Szabados at a news conference Thursday before the team's home game.
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.
Canadian women's star Hayley Wickenheiser has played as a forward in men's leagues in Finland and Sweden.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2014