By Barry Janoff
September 18, 2016: The World Cup of Hockey, under the auspices of the NHL and NHL Players' Assn., may be getting the majority of ice time in the news, but another major player in the hockey universe is also making headlines.
Bauer Hockey, a leading manufacturer of hockey equipment, said it has signed four of the game's best women's players to exclusive equipment deals.
The quartet — Hilary Knight, Marie-Philip Poulin, Jennifer Wakefield and Kacey Bellamy — each have earned Olympic, pro and/or national team honors for their respective countries.
They join a roster that includes more than 180 NHL players, led by Alex Ovechkin (Washington Capitals), Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers), Steve Stamkos (Tampa Bay Lightning) and Chicago Blackhawks teammates Patrick Kane and Johathan Toews.
"It is exciting to partner with a brand with such a rich heritage in hockey that is deeply committed to the game for all players at every level," Knight, a six-time world champion with the U.S. National Team and two-time silver Olympic medalist (Vancouver 2010, Sochi 2014), who currently plays for the Boston Pride in the National Women's Hockey League, said in a statement.
"One of my key goals as a player is to positively impact younger athletes and create an opportunity for women and girls everywhere to lace up and compete," said Knight, whose endorsement deals also include Red Bull.
To support the alliance, the four women will appear in multi-media ad campaigns for Bauer Hockey and "provide valuable insight to future product development."
As part of its on-going efforts to support women's hockey, Bauer Hockey said it would conduct ten female-only The First Shift events throughout Canada this season.
The First Shift, launched by Bauer Hockey in 2013, is designed to "break down barriers to entry and create a welcoming environment for new-to-hockey families by delivering a program that is accessible, affordable, safe and fun," per the company. The program's lead sponsor is Canadian Tire.
Earlier this month, Bauer Hockey launched #GetFitFriday, an eight-week video series in which NHL players share hockey skills and tips "aimed to enhance skill development for hockey players of all ages and abilities."
The series includes Kane, Towes, Jack Eichel (Buffalo Sabres), Aaron Ekblad (Florida Panthers), Dylan Larkin (Detroit Red Wings) and Auston Matthews (Toronto Maple Leafs).
Poulin, who has won two gold medals with the Canadian Women's National Team (2010, 2014), will "play a key role" in the marketing efforts of The First Shift program, appearing alongside six-time Stanley Cup champion Mark Messier and Toews, who is the Blackhawks captain.
According to Mary-Kay Messier, vp-marketing for Bauer Hockey, "As leaders in the sport, we have a responsibility to do whatever we can to help grow the game and part of that commitment is making sure we provide opportunities for young girls to experience the game we all love.
"There's no better way to demonstrate the values and life-lessons you can experience through hockey than to see and hear it directly from players like Hilary, Marie-Philip, Jennifer and Kacey. That's what hockey is all about and we look forward to working with these talented, elite players in the future," said Messier, whose brother is Mark Messier.
"One of my key goals as a player is to positively impact younger athletes and create an opportunity for women and girls everywhere to lace up and compete."
Among her achievements, Knight was named the MVP at the 2015 and 2016 IIHF World Championships and received the Directorate Award for Best Forward. This past season, Knight led the NWHL in scoring with 15 goals and 18 assists and led the Boston Pride to the Isobel Cup in the league's inaugural season.
Poulin plays for the Montreal Canadiennes in the Canadian Women's Hockey League, where last season she was named the league's MVP after leading the CWHL in scoring with 23 goals and 23 assists in 22 games.
As a member of Team Canada, Wakefield has won an Olympic gold medal (2014), a World Championship gold medal (2012) and two World Championship silver medals (2011, 2013). She has played overseas for the past three seasons, in both men's and women's leagues.
Bellamy, a two-time Olympic silver medalist and six-time world champion with the U.S. National Team, will play for the Boston Pride of the NWHL this season.
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