October 11th is International Day Of The Girl Child, this international day will promote equal treatment and opportunities for girls around the world in areas such as law, nutrition, health care, education, training, and freedom from violence and abuse. Even here in Canada girls have a higher rates of depression, sexual harassment and dating violence.
So in honor of International Day Of The Girl Child, lets take a quick look at some women who have blazed the trail in the world of sports and those who are currently walking it.
In 1992 Manon Rheaume became the first woman to play in an NHL exhibition game when she suited up for the Tampa Bay Lightning, stopping 7 of 9 shots during 17 minutes of ice time. However, Many within the NHL felt that this was a publicity stunt by then Lightning owner Phil Esposito – who was looking for a way to sell hockey in Tampa. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding her NHL appearance, Manon was a pioneer for women in pro sports including the likes of Hayley Wickenheiser and Cassie Campbell.
After her playing days ended, Manon went on to work for Mission Hockey, developing and promoting girls’ hockey equipment, in 2008 she would form the Manon Rheaume Foundation as a way to give to the community and to the game of hockey. The goal of the foundation is to inspire girls to reach for their dreams while overcoming obstacles.
Billlie Jean King
Billie Jean King is a true icon in women’s sports, in the late 60’s on into the 70’s, King campaigned for equal prize money for both men’s and women’s tournaments. In 1971 she became the first woman athlete to earn over $100,000 in prize money, however, inequalities were still common place. King won the 1972 US open but won $15,000 less than he male counterpart. She stated that she would not play the next year if the prize money were not equal. So in 1973 the US open became the first major tournament to offer equal prize money for men and women. In 1973 King would compete in one of the most famous tennis matches of all time – The Battle Of The Sexes : King vs Riggs. Bobby Riggs was at one time the top male tennis player in the world, winning the 1939 Wimbledon tournament, he later went on to become a self-described tennis “hustler” who played in promotional matches. During the summer of 1973 Riggs took on the role of male chauvinist, proclaiming how inferior women’s tennis was to men’s. The two would play on September 20th, 1973 in a winner take all $100,000 game. King would go on to defeat Riggs in convincing fashion in front of a television audience of over 50 million viewers in 37 countries. King would go on to say “I thought it would set us back 50 years if I didn’t win that match. It would ruin the women’s [tennis] tour and affect all women’s self-esteem. To beat a fifty-nine-year old guy was no thrill for me. The thrill was exposing a lot of new people to tennis.”
You may not have ever heard of Chelsea Baker before, and you could be easily excused for that. However, Chelsea Baker, now 15, is the best pitcher in little league baseball – anywhere… Ms Baker is already in the Baseball Hall Of Fame, the jersey from her second (Yes, she has two) perfect game sits in the Diamond Dreams exhibit as a reminder of the importance of women in baseball. She was the subject of ESPN’s E:60 Best Of Women In Sport. What sets Chelsea a part from other baseball players at her age (both girls and boys) is her ability to throw a knuckleball with incredible command, she was taught the pitch by her former coach and former New York Yankees pitcher Joe Niekro who had used the pitch himself during his playing career. At only 15 Chelsea has a contract to play professional baseball in Japan and many feel that with the right development could one day lead the charge of women into MLB.