Women's hockey at Saint Mary's University in Halifax was resuscitated on Wednesday with a corporate donation, leaving the question of whether corporate sponsorship is being allowed to determine the strength, weakness or ultimately the existence of sports programs in universities across the country.
Canadian Tire announced a $60,000 donation on Wednesday to salvage the program. It had been slated for elimination due to athletic department budget cuts.
"This is a good news story when we see a Canadian company with a real conscience stepping in to help - a company that knows how much women's hockey means in this country," said Marg McGregor, chief executive officer of Canadian Interuniversity Sports. "It also signals that companies do feel that sponsoring sports does offer a good return on their investment."
Funding cuts from the Nova Scotia government resulted in SMU needing to trim its athletics department budget, and cutting women's hockey would have saved the school $120,000.
"We got e-mails from nine- and 10-year-old girls telling us they had a dream to play university hockey; we got e-mails from Hayley Wickenheiser and from Sidney Crosby," said Steve Proctor, SMU's communications director. "This was an individual story that grabbed people, including Canadian Tire. I'm not sure ADs will go running to corporations with their hand out after this."
Canadian Tire says the donation to Saint Mary's is for one year, with the possibility of renewal for a second season.
"We were really inspired by reading news reports of these women losing their team, women who not only play for their university, but who are also active with coaching and working with kids in their community," said Liz Hamilton, the company's vice president of communications.
SMU's coach of 14 years, Lisa Jordan, whose contract expires on Thursday, was in talks about an extension.
"Everyone is so happy that women's hockey is back at the school," said Jordan. "We do have some players who are disheartened that the school was so quick to try and cut us, some have resentment and may not stay, but overall, everyone is thrilled that the team is back and touched that a company of that magnitude would help us."