Pro contracts for Raty, Szabados

Top female goalies to play in men’s leagues

12.03.2014
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Female goalkeepers Shannon Szabados and Noora Raty get new challenges after signing professional contracts with men’s teams. Photos: Andre Ringuette, Jeff Vinnick / HHOF-IIHF Images

After hitting the headlines during the Sochi Olympics, Finland’s Noora Raty and Canada’s Shannon Szabados earned professional contracts in men’s hockey.

Szabados goes South

Shannon Szabados, who led Canada to gold in Sochi, recently got new experience in men’s hockey when the 27-year-old practised with the Edmonton Oilers, who were temporarily short in netminders following a trade.

The news was followed by the signing of a contract in men’s hockey with Columbus Cottonmouths of the Southern Professional Hockey League.

The league founded in 2004 spans over several states mostly in the south-east of the United States including the Cottonmouths from Columbus, Georgia. It is one of several regional men’s senior leagues in North America below the level of the NHL, AHL and ECHL.

Szabados is expected to arrive today and will meet former teammates Jordan Draper, Andy Willigar and Kyle Johnson, who same as Szabados studied and played at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton.

“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,” Cottonmouths head coach Jerome Bechard said in a press release.

Szabados represented Canada in two Olympic Winter Games, winning gold in Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014, and three IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championships, winning gold in 2012 and two silver medals (2011, 2013).

Raty’s dream comes true

On the international women’s day Noora Raty’s dream became true. She got a one-year contract for 2014/2015 with a professional men’s team, Kiekko-Vantaa from the Finnish second-tier league Mestis.

Raty accepted the role as number-two goalkeeper in the organization and expects to get some ice time every now and then as she told Finnish media.

During the 2014 Olympic Winter Games she had announced her retirement from women’s hockey because she cannot make a living in women’s hockey and unveiled contacts to the club from the Helsinki region.

“I needed the challenge. It will be hard and time will tell. But that’s why the sport is played, to go to your limits and break boundaries as in my motto ‘dream big and aim high’,” Raty said. “A big thanks to the Kiekko-Vantaa organization for this opportunity and that I can make my dream come true.”

Raty is considered one of the best female goalkeepers in the world and started to play for the women’s national team as a 15-year-old in the 2005 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship. She participated in three Olympics winning bronze in Vancouver 2010. She also won three bronze medals (2008, 2009, 2011) in seven IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championships.

After missing the semi-finals in a 4-2 loss against Sweden and ending up in fifth place in Sochi, Raty stayed in Russia to end her season with a couple of games for SKIF Nizhni Novgorod, the leader of the Russian women’s hockey league.

Raty won’t be the first woman in Mestis. Canadian forward Hayley Wickenheiser once helped Kirkkonummi Salama earn promotion to the second-tier league but only got limited ice time after the promotion to Mestis.

It will be the highest level of play a female goalkeeper has played in Europe. From the Sochi Olympians, Switzerland’s Florence Schelling and Sophie Anthamatten, and Germany’s Viona Harrer and Ivonne Schroder played in the third-tier men’s leagues of their countries.

MARTIN MERK

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