Geraldine Heaney was once again at the forefront of broken gender barriers in hockey with her induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Heaney joins four men in the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2013 announced Tuesday.
Heaney, NHL players Chris Chelios, Brendan Shanahan and Scott Niedermayer, as well as NHL coach and general manager Fred Shero will be officially inducted Nov. 11 at the Hall in downtown Toronto.
Heaney, her Canadian teammate Angela James and U.S. forward Cammi Granato were the first three women to enter the International Hockey Hall of Fame in 2008.
The trio has duplicated that feat at the Hockey Hall of Fame, although Heaney’s entry came later.
James and Granato were both ushered into the Hall in 2010 and there hadn’t been another female inducted until Heaney.
“It was unbelievable receiving the call today,” Heaney said Tuesday during a conference call with the inductees. “I think you guys probably heard it in my voice.
“As a young girl playing hockey, never in my wildest dreams would I ever think I’d be going in the Hall. It shows you where the women’s game as come and how much further it can go.”
Heaney won gold with Canada at the first seven women’s world hockey championships held starting in 1990. The offensive defenceman was named the tournament’s top defenceman in both 1992 and 1994.
She scored a highlight reel goal for Canada in the final of the inaugural world championship in Ottawa. She split the U.S. defence, avoided the goaltender’s attempted poke check and sailed through the air after slipping the puck into the net.
“That very first world championship and scoring the winning goal is something that I always have a chance to see because they play it on TV quite a bit,” Heaney said.
She took silver when women’s hockey made its Olympic debut in 1998 and won gold four years later in Salt Lake City before retiring.
Her decorated international hockey career was a natural fit for the IIHF’s induction.
The Hockey Hall of Fame seemed a bigger hurdle to Heaney. She was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and grew up in the Toronto area playing for the Aeros.
“It was a male game when I played and going down to the Hall of Fame any time, you never saw in any females in there, so you didn’t think this would ever happen,” Heaney said. “I’m so glad that it has.”
Said Shanahan: “Competing alongside her for our country in the Olympics, it’s great to have Geraldine going in as well.”
Heaney had 27 goals and 66 assists in 125 career games for Canada. The 45-year-old still holds national team records for the world championship games (35) goals (8), assists (28), and points (36) by a defenceman.
“It’s the people you meet, the experiences and all the memories you create playing the game of hockey is the things I’ll remember,” Heaney said.
She lives in Ancaster, Ont., with her husband John and their daughter and son. She coached the University of Waterloo women’s hockey team for six seasons before coaching her daughter Shannon’s novice team this past winter.
Heaney said only their four-year-old son Patrick was at home when she received her phone call from the Hall of Fame.
“So he was the only I could tell right away,” she recalled. “I was just about to do a workout and then when I got the call I decided ‘I’m not going to do it today.“’