In partnership with USA Hockey and national sportscaster John Buccigross, Labatt USA today announced its plans to bring greater access to the sport of hockey for all by expanding sled hockey programs throughout the country. Team USA captain and Paralympic gold medalist Josh Sweeney was also on hand to help Labatt introduce its goal of creating 10 new adult sled hockey programs that will help meet the growing demand for the sport among people with disabilities and amputees who want to play the game. The announcement was made heading into the 2015 IPC Ice Sled Hockey World Championships in Buffalo, NY, April 26-May 3, 2015.
“Labatt has had a partnership with USA Hockey for more than 12 years and as we began to dig deeper into their sled hockey program, we quickly learned that access was one of the major barriers for players,” said Lisa Texido, brand manager, Labatt. “Hockey is part of Labatt’s roots — it has been for decades — and we believe we’re in a position to help drive and grow the sport of sled hockey in a big way. We can create more programs and bring greater awareness and access to the sport, nationally. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”
Labatt plans to raise funds, bring together partners and increase access to sled hockey through national advertising, PSAs, promotions, social media and a new specialty pack over the next year. Building on its decade-long relationship, Labatt will work in partnership with USA Hockey to drive further awareness of the sport, while raising key funds to launch new programs. As the governing authority on hockey in the U.S., USA Hockey also will oversee the administration of funds and creation of the 10 new sled hockey programs.
About Sled Hockey
Sled hockey, or sledge hockey as it is known outside the United States, is played by people with physical disabilities in the lower part of the body. The game follows similar rules to ice hockey, with players competing in specially designed sleds affixed with two ice hockey skate blades. Each player is equipped with two hockey sticks bearing metal pics on the ends so players can propel themselves and move across the ice. It is an extremely physical, grueling sport that its many athletes view as a game-changing experience, both on and off the ice.
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Linking Up With John Buccigross
Highlighting Labatt’s sled hockey awareness initiative is its partnership with national sportscaster, John Buccigross, whose passion for hockey runs deep. Buccigross will act as a key ambassador for Labatt’s efforts to raise funds for USA Hockey’s Sled Hockey Program.
“It’s no secret that my passion is hockey,” said John Buccigross, national sports commentator. “To be able to dig my heels in and support the game of sled hockey with Labatt; to pay tribute to these incredible athletes; to help spread the word about the sport and what it means to so many hockey players is really just the least I can do. It’s an honor to be a part of such an awesome initiative.”
Buccigross will partner with Labatt this November and December on a retail promotion to raise money for the sport. Specifically, fans can look for specially-marked packs of Labatt Blue and Labatt Blue Light on store shelves, which will benefit the creation of new sled programs nationally.
By the numbers
Creating a sled hockey program costs approximately $25,000. That covers the cost for 15 sleds, 15 sets of sticks, equipment, ice time, uniforms, training and coaching. Labatt’s goal is to create 10 new programs by raising $250,000 in year one.
When Labatt began planning for this sled hockey awareness initiative, they connected with Team USA Sled Hockey captain Josh Sweeney and goalie Steve Cash to hear firsthand from the athletes about what the sport means to them, why they play and how they’d like to see the sport develop.
Sweeney is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who was injured while serving in Afghanistan in October 2009. Cash was diagnosed with bone cancer in his right knee as a young child, and underwent amputation surgery at just three years old. Both Sweeney and Cash earned gold medals at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
Stay up to date about Labatt’s sled hockey initiative by visiting www.LabattUS.com. Participate in the social conversation on Facebook at www.facebook.com/LabattUSA, and on Twitter by following Labatt @LabattUSA. For more from John Buccigross, follow him at @Buccigross.
About Labatt USA
Headquartered in Buffalo, NY, Labatt USA imports Labatt Blue and Labatt Blue Light from Canada. Labatt Blue is America’s top-selling Canadian beer. First brewed in 1951, Labatt Blue offers a clean, refreshing taste, light color, slight hop aroma, good balance, fruity character and a slightly sweet taste. Labatt Blue Light, a Canadian pilsner, is the No. 2 Canadian import behind Labatt Blue. In 2015, John Buccigross has agreed to act as a paid spokesperson to support Labatt’s efforts to raise funds for USA Hockey’s Sled Hockey Program.
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