Women’s players secure major sponsor

CRANBERRY, Pa. -- The Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association secured a major sponsor on Thursday, as Budweiser Canada announced its support toward the PWHPA, the group of women's hockey players fighting for a sustainable, viable professional women's league.

Budweiser has supported all levels of hockey and its fans for more than 10 years and we’re proud to be an official partner of the PWHPA, but we know this is just the beginning,” said Todd Allen, VP Marketing, Labatt Breweries of Canada. “We wanted to go one step further with this rallying cry to not only bring people together to support the mission of the PWHPA, but also provide a united voice for the players.”

Budweiser Canada and the PWHPA teamed up for this video, a twist on the Stompin’ Tom Connor song, “The Hockey Song”:

The video stars many members of the PWHPA who are sitting out of North American women's professional hockey this year, as well as some notable personalities from Canada.

"In 2018, a lack of funding collapsed the women's game," former Olympian and current TSN reporter Tessa Bonhomme says in the video, referring to the folding of the CWHL. "The 'Good Old Hockey Game' is only that when it's good to everyone."

The video calls Budweiser Canada's sponsorship "step one toward rebuilding the future."

After Team Canada and USA practiced on Thursday at the Lemieux Complex in Cranberry, I spoke to some of the players who starred in the video.

Team Canada and former Toronto Furies forward Natalie Spooner is the first current women's player to speak in the video.

"That's huge," Spooner said. "Anytime we get a sponsor like that on board, to know that they're helping to share our message about women's hockey. The way they did it, it was a really cool way with 'The Hockey Song' and knowing how iconic that song is. They're showing that hockey is for everyone. Obviously that message is based around women's hockey, but it should be for everyone -- sledge hockey, blind hockey, whatever it is. Hockey is a sport that everyone should be able to play. That's such an important message."

The second player to speak in the video is another Team Canada and former Furies forward, Sarah Nurse.

"I think Budweiser, it's been pretty underrated with how amazing they are with women's sports, and really stepping in and realizing the value that we bring to the table," Nurse told me. "They've been incredible. So when they stepped in and wanted to partner with the PWHPA, it was kind of a no brainer. They knew that they wanted to invest in us, and we were so ready and willing to have them come in. I think it's going to be big."

Team USA forward Hilary Knight also starred in the video.

"It's awesome when big companies come on board and believe in what you're doing," Knight told me. "I think it shows that their company's mission aligns with ours, and it's creating a better future for the next generation. ... When you have a group of talented and bold women that are trying to come together and pave the way for the next generation, it's easy for companies to hop on board, especially when they align with what we're doing."

The PWHPA has already received support or partnered with Adidas, Secret, Dunkin' Donuts, and the NHLPA, among other organizations. The players are hoping that the latest major sponsor leads to other companies supporting the PWHPA, which would be a huge step toward forming a sustainable league.

"I think it was really scary when our league folded," Spooner said. "We had nowhere to go. We still have uncertainties of what's going to happen, but hopefully this gets out there and people realize that we do deserve a league to play in, a league that's sustainable. Hopefully this creates that buzz and gets a lot of people interested."

"I think it's going to get a lot of people thinking," said Nurse. "It's going to really bring attention to what's going on. Because a lot of people unfortunately don't know, and that's what we're really trying to do with the PWHPA is just really bring awareness to what's going on. It's almost out of sight, out of mind sometimes. I think when people realize what's going on, they realize that there's a problem. I think this is going to be a spearhead to help us do that. ... We have such incredible partners already. Our work isn't done yet, we're looking for other investments and other partners to partner with us, but I think it will bring in a lot."

"We have a handful of awesome partners and sponsors right now, but Budweiser's commitment among others has been fantastic," said Knight. "I hope it only continues to grow."

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