Whether it’s accepting a championship trophy in Peewee or at the national level, hockey players are always quick to thank their families for all the support and dedication throughout the years.
Coaches, friends and extended family typically come next; it’s not often that sponsors get a shout out, but as far as female players are concerned, Esso should be near the top of everyone’s thank you lists.
For the past 14 years Esso has played an instrumental role in facilitating the development of female hockey throughout Canada, so much so that today the company is synonymous with the game at almost every level.
Esso’s commitment to hockey has been ongoing for more than 70 years, with a link to the female side of the game dating back to 1995. It was then that Esso joined forces with Hockey Canada to become the title sponsor of the Esso Women’s National Championship, a senior women’s event that began in 1982.
Esso played a vital role in allowing the championship to grow until its final year in 2008. The company is now backing the Esso Cup, the National Female Midget Championship that will mirror the TELUS Cup, Canada’s successful National Midget Championship on the male side of the game.
“We’re really excited about this event and the promise it has,” says Karen Fraser, manager of marketing sponsorship with Esso.
“On a national level there was a need to focus our energy on developing younger female players and this event will allow for that.”
Esso is also deeply rooted in female hockey at the grassroots level and has been for the past 11 years through Esso Fun Days, a program that introduces beginner female hockey players of any age to the sport.
According to Trina Radcliffe, Hockey Canada’s manager of female development, there are more than 30 Esso Fun Days held across Canada every year, with more than 1,000 girls taking part.
Not everyone who participates in the Fun Days will end up playing hockey, but a number of them do and without the support of Esso, none of that would be possible.
“A lot of the problems that communities have are a lack of support, a lack of funding and a lack of advertising,” says Radcliffe. “Putting a name like Esso to a program like the Esso Fun Days allows communities and the branches themselves to really go out and target the areas that they need to target, which increases their numbers in female participation.
“The Esso Fun Days give girls the opportunity to really try hockey out to see if they like it, which is really invaluable.”
In the same way Esso keeps cars fueled and on the road, the company is allowing female hockey to further expand throughout the country, something it has been focused on since the beginning.
“If you look back over those last 14 years, there has been some significant growth happening in the women’s game, not only in participation, but also in terms of some of the development programs that are out there and certainly it’s great to be a part of that,” says Fraser.
“We take great pride in the fact that we took a leading role as far as lending our support specifically behind women’s hockey and I think the success speaks for itself.”
The rate at which female hockey has grown over the last decade is unparalleled, which seems fitting seeing as how the same can be said of Esso’s continued support.