Secret gives $1M to women’s hockey players association

TORONTO (AP) — The Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association is receiving a $1 million boost from Secret Deodorant to continue its barnstorming Dream Gap Tour of games and relieve any financial uncertainties resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The commitment is considered the largest for professional women’s hockey in North America, the PWHPA announced Thursday.

The cash influx led to the PWHPA announcing its renamed Secret Dream Gap Tour will feature six events this winter, with players also competing for cash prizes. That’s a switch from last year, when PWHPA players only had their travel, lodging and meal costs covered for participating in the weekend tournaments.

PWHPA operations consultant and Hockey Hall of Famer Jayna Hefford said thanks to this donation and others, “players are given access to the necessary training facilities and resources and opportunities to compete that professional sport demands.”

“COVID-19 affected our positive momentum and threatened our upcoming season,” Hefford said. “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.”

The PWHPA already had a commitment to cover the cost of practice time and facilities at their five hub locations.

This comes at a time when the National Women’s Hockey League is restructuring by re-assigning longtime commissioner Dani Rylan Kearney and naming Tyler Tumminia interim commissioner. The NWHL, which five years ago became North America’s first women’s hockey league to pay its players salaries, is expanding into Toronto as its sixth franchise.

Despite the presence of the NWHL, a vast majority of U.S. and Canadian national team players and some of women’s hockey’s best have chosen to stick with the PWHPA to push for what they believe is a sustainable, long-term professional league. Olympians Kendall Coyne Schofield, Hilary Knight and Brianna Decker of the U.S. and Marie-Philip Poulin, Natalie Spooner and Sarah Nurse of Canada are among the 125 players who will play Dream Gap Tour games in Minnesota, New Hampshire, Toronto, Calgary and Montreal.

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