Hockey Canada is trying to fill the gap left by the collapse of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League and it’s getting a multimillion-dollar boost from BFL Canada, a Montreal-based insurance company.
The company, which is a longtime supporter of women’s hockey, announced Tuesday it will become the title sponsor of training, evaluation and selection camps for the Canadian national women’s team, the national development team and the women’s under-18 team.
BFL president Barry Lorenzetti, a former chairman of the Hockey Canada Foundation, said his company was making a five-year commitment to programs that range from elite athlete and coaching development to grassroots programs.
“We’ve added series of mini-camps in Montreal and Toronto so that our national team players have an opportunity to play,” said Gina Kingsbury, a two-time Olympic gold medallist who is the director of the women’s team for Hockey Canada. “I think by adding more camps we’re going to minimize the effect of not having our players competing every week. I do think it’s an opportunity to embed our vision and build chemistry on and off the ice You always have to look at this in a positive light, (but) we’d much rather have our athletes plying in a league.”
Most of the top Canadian players competed in the CWHL, which folded in the spring. Many players are hoping NHL clubs will jump in with significant financial help, but that assistance hasn’t been forthcoming. Top players like Marie-Philip Poulin, Lauriane Rougeau and Mélodie Daoust have joined the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association, which has organized a series of Dream Gap showcases.
“We had a very good response last weekend in Toronto and we have events coming up in New Hampshire and Chicago,” said Daoust. “We hope to have one this winter here in Montreal.”
Unifor, the largest private sector union in Canada, is a title sponsor of the tour, while the NHLPA, Budweiser and Tim Hortons have also provided support.
BFL Canada has also established the female coaches of the year awards, which will honour elite and grassroots coaches from each province and territory as well as national winners. The company will also serve as the title sponsors for the IIHF World Girls’ Hockey Weekend, Oct. 4-6, as well as the IIHF Girls Game in February. BFL will also be a partner in the women’s world championships, which will be played in Halifax and Truro, N.S., in April.