Deodorant brand Secret has committed $1 million to the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association to fund the 2021 Dream Gap Tour. It marks the largest corporate commitment ever made for professional women’s hockey in North America.
This year, 125 players — including 38 Olympians — will compete in the Secret Dream Gap Tour. Players will also compete for cash prizes across the six-stop event in the “Secret Cup.” Teams will be based in Toronto, Calgary, Montreal, Minnesota and New Hampshire.
Last year, PWHPA players only had their travel, lodging and meal costs covered during tour events. The PWHPA already had the cost of practice time and facilities at their five hub locations covered for the upcoming season, according to The Associated Press.
The PWHPA launched its first Dream Gap Tour following the shutdown of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League last year, and has the goal of advancing and supporting a single professional women’s ice hockey league in North America.
“As a brand committed to empowering and emboldening women, we can’t stand by and see gender equality unravel. Secret proudly stands with the PWHPA and its players to fight for a new professional league to ensure all players — regardless of gender — are given the same chance and support to play,” Secret Senior Brand Director Lisa Reid said in an announcement. “Hockey is Canada’s sport, and this issue is both symbolic and pervasive. Countless women are being told they don’t deserve the same opportunities as men; tackling professional hockey equity is our first, but not last, fight. The PWHPA and its players represent the top athletes in the sport who deserve to have the same opportunities as the men.”
The PWHPA includes over 60 members of Hockey Canada and USA Hockey.
It says that it is working to coordinate “training needs and programming opportunities” for the upcoming season and collaborate “with like-minded organizations to make hockey more inclusive for women today and for future generations.”
The revamped Dream Gap Tour comes as the National Women’s Hockey League — the first North American women’s hockey league to pay players salaries — is undergoing a restructuring. The six-team league is adopting an ownership model similar to that of most other major professional sports leagues in North America.
In the five years since the NWHL launched, the majority of top players in the U.S. and Canada have opted to play with the PWHPA and continue to push for another long-term option.
“Thanks to brands like Secret, players are given access to the necessary training facilities and resources and opportunities to compete, that professional sport demands. And fans are given the chance to cheer on their favourite athletes and rally behind their home teams,” PWHPA Operations Consultant Jayna Hefford said. “COVID-19 affected our positive momentum and threatened our upcoming season. We’re so thankful for Secret’s ongoing support of the PWHPA. The PWHPA is made up of the best hockey players in the world, the fans deserve a chance to watch these women play and our players deserve to be treated equitably. This is a pivotal moment to create real change in women’s professional sports.”