TORONTO — Sarah Nurse was driving residence from a latest PWHL Toronto follow when she obtained a bit of sage recommendation.

It wasn’t from a podcast or a pal on the telephone. The recommendation got here courtesy of a billboard on the facet of the highway in Canada’s most populous metropolis, that includes her personal face with the Adidas slogan “You got this.”

“I was like, yeah, I do,” Nurse stated with amusing.

The billboard she drove previous is one of many throughout the nation, together with an enormous commercial at Yonge-Dundas Sq. — Toronto’s closest approximation to Occasions Sq. in New York Metropolis — that pairs Nurse with Tremendous Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes and World Cup champion Lionel Messi.

Nurse, 29, has had main partnerships in the previous. In 2020, Tim Hortons and Mattel collaborated to make a Barbie doll in her likeness. In 2022, she was featured on a Cheerios field. But in the two years since her breakout efficiency at the Beijing Olympics — through which she broke a file for factors in a single match (18) — Nurse has turn out to be one of the greatest faces in ladies’s hockey.

She turned the first girl to look on the cowl of an EA Sports activities hockey online game with NHL 23. She was a key determine in the launch of the Skilled Ladies’s Hockey League as a member of the player-led bargaining committee that struck a first-of-its-kind CBA in ladies’s skilled hockey. This month, she starred in a Canadian Super Bowl commercial and was one of the busiest athletes throughout NHL All-Star Weekend, showing at a number of league and associate occasions.

“Everywhere you turn, it’s like, there’s Sarah,” stated Canadian nationwide staff defender Erin Ambrose.

Nurse’s eight main endorsement offers put her forward of just about each different skilled hockey participant, exterior of a handful of NHL stars. Amongst ladies and gamers of shade, she is in uncharted territory.

Her ascension has been years in the making — all half of a rigorously crafted business plan developed by Nurse and her staff at Dulcedo Administration, a expertise company, to make Nurse not simply one of the faces of the sport, but somebody with the form of superstar that transcends her sport.

“You don’t need to follow basketball to know who LeBron James is,” stated her agent, Thomas Houlton. “That’s what we want to do for Sarah.”

Sarah Nurse holds the Barbie dolls impressed by herself and Marie-Philip Poulin in 2020. (Courtesy of Tim Hortons)

When Nurse signed with Dulcedo in 2019, her fame as a participant was already sturdy.

At 24 years previous, Nurse had already been a star at the College of Wisconsin, gained an Olympic silver medal and been drafted with the No. 2 decide in the now-defunct Canadian Ladies’s Hockey League. In these early days, Nurse was typically mentioned as one of the latest branches of a formidable athletic household tree.

Her father, Roger, was an elite lacrosse participant. Her aunt, Raquel, was a celebrated level guard at Syracuse College who married Philadelphia Eagles legend Donovan McNabb. Her cousins embrace Kia Nurse, a two-time Olympian and WNBA all-star, and Darnell Nurse, a defenseman for the Edmonton Oilers.

With Nurse’s multifaceted enchantment, a number of brokers got here calling.

But after the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, Nurse, who graduated with a business diploma, was seeking to discover her pursuits in style and sweetness — fields that are sometimes exterior the areas of experience for conventional sports activities companies. Nurse, nevertheless, wasn’t taking part in in a typical sports activities panorama.

In the CWHL, gamers had been paid solely small stipends — Nurse stated she made $2,000 as a rookie in the league — which meant taking part in ladies’s skilled hockey was not a important supply of revenue.

Dulcedo, which launched as a modeling company but has since expanded into different industries, together with sports activities, might give Nurse more alternatives to department out.

“She didn’t just want to be known as Sarah Nurse, the hockey player,” defined Houlton. “And not just as a piece of the (family tree). … It’s been clear from the beginning that she really wanted to have her own legacy.”

“When I first signed with them,” Nurse stated, “I did this glamor photoshoot, and I’d never done anything like that before because I’m a hockey player — nobody gives me fake eyelashes or puts lipstick on me. I was like, this could be the start of something great, because I felt like they got me.”

Houlton signed Nurse to blue-chip sports activities companions like CCM and Adidas but additionally labored on increase her social-media profile to place her in areas exterior of hockey. “No skincare brand is going to want to work with you if we don’t see skincare anywhere,” he defined.

On the ice, Nurse was in one other Olympic cycle with Staff Canada main as much as the 2022 Video games in Beijing and in the center of a interval of upheaval in ladies’s skilled hockey. The CWHL folded in March 2019, and most of the gamers banded collectively to take a seat out of skilled hockey till a greater league was fashioned. Then the 2020 ladies’s world championships had been canceled on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The stakes had been excessive in the 12 months main as much as the Olympics. For athletes with out big-ticket skilled contracts, the once-every-four-year window the Video games present is a crucial second to generate income — and a reputation for themselves. A knee harm throughout tryouts put into query whether or not Nurse can be wholesome sufficient to play.

“I came out of the world championships in Calgary and I was on the fourth line — that’s not a safe place to be. Then I blew up my knee,” Nurse stated. “So I’m going into Olympic tryouts and I’m like, I don’t know if I can make this team.”

To the teaching workers, regardless of the truth she couldn’t skate in the months main as much as the match, Nurse had more than confirmed her value to the Canadian nationwide staff.

“We knew that she was going to be a big part of our program if she was healthy enough to go,” stated Canada’s head coach, Troy Ryan. “The combination of her work ethic and the medical staff did a great job getting her back.”

“What I love about Sarah, as a teammate and as a hockey player, is that she does the little things right. She’s versatile in the sense that she can play center and play wing. She can win draws, she’s hard to play against, you can trust her in tough matchups,” stated Ambrose. “For so long with the national team, that was her m.o. Whatever you needed, she was there.”

Nurse made the staff and was wholesome in time for the begin of the match. She additionally secured Olympic campaigns with Common Mills, Sportchek, RBC and more.

Staff Canada rewrote the file books in Beijing, going undefeated in the match to win a gold medal. Nurse, who began the match on the fourth line, labored her means as much as the prime line with Marie-Philip Poulin and Brianne Jenner, and broke Hayley Wickenheiser’s Olympic scoring file with 18 factors in six video games. She set a file for assists in a single match (13) and have become the first Black girl to win an Olympic gold medal in hockey.

“That was really the catalyst for her to take that next step,” stated Houlton. “And really propelled us into what was the next phase of her life.”

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Sarah Nurse attends a postgame convention after the PWHL three-on-three showcase at Scotiabank Area throughout NHL All-Star Weekend. (Kevin Sousa / NHLI by way of Getty Pictures)

Ninety minutes earlier than the NHL All-Star red-carpet occasion, Nurse was in a lodge room in downtown Toronto doing her hair, getting her make-up carried out and taking pictures content material for her social media channels — nothing she wasn’t used to.

Her All-Star weekend duties had began days earlier than, with media and promotional appearances. Earlier that morning, she was on the ice for an out of doors follow with the PWHL gamers chosen to signify the brand-new league at the NHL’s tentpole occasion. She then made a shock go to to a women hockey staff with teammates Renata Quick, Natalie Spooner and Adidas.

After leaving the lodge, she’d stroll the pink carpet, shock one other women hockey staff — this time with Canadian Tire and Poulin — and, 12 hours after her day began, play in the PWHL three-on-three showcase at Scotiabank Area. That half of her schedule doesn’t embrace the NHL abilities competitors, which Nurse was on the ice for on Friday night time, or the regular-season PWHL sport she performed on Saturday.

“That whole week was a blur,” Nurse stated.

“I don’t even know if we were anticipating what occurred there in terms of, like, you can’t even walk a couple of steps without someone stopping and saying, ‘That’s Sarah Nurse, can I get a picture?’” Houlton stated. “It was amazing to see how far she’s come.”

All the pieces about Nurse’s NHL All-Star weekend suggests the plan has labored. In the final 12 months, Nurse has gotten so busy that Dulcedo added Phoebe Balshin to the staff as a senior athlete supervisor in January 2023. Her job was to create a more strategic plan for Nurse’s model and assist her take the subsequent step.

“When I first came on, a big conversation was: Sarah works with so many brands, but what is her brand? Who is she? What is her mission and vision?” Balshin stated. “So we basically built out a five-year plan with her to take us through Milan (the 2026 Olympics.)”

To refine the course of, Nurse recognized 4 particular intersections of her personal pursuits and progress alternatives: hockey, style and sweetness, entrepreneurship and group. A possible partnership should transfer the needle in no less than one of these classes.

“If something doesn’t align with me, we’re not going to do it,” Nurse stated.

Nurse now has eight main sponsors: Adidas, CCM, RBC, Canadian Tire, Tim Hortons, EA Sports activities, Chevrolet and, most lately, Dyson. She’s additionally signed different paid partnerships with magnificence manufacturers similar to Dove, L’Oréal and Revlon.

Manufacturers focused Nurse after her Olympic efficiency, but that’s simply one half of the complete package deal. She’s outgoing with an affable attraction, an infectious chortle and an ease on digital camera.

“It comes down to personality, and Sarah is very much one-of-one,” Houlton stated. “Sarah can show up on set straight out of bed and look amazing, sound amazing, and give the brand the best performance they’ve ever seen.”

Nurse is a biracial Black girl and is vocal in her help of elevated illustration in a predominantly White sport. Her staff is cautious about the intentions of potential sponsors. “I need to ask all the right questions to make sure that this brand is not just using her so they check their diversity box,” Houlton defined.

They’ve additionally labored with companions that Nurse already had in her portfolio to make sure that her targets are being met — not simply the model’s personal aims.

Throughout All-Star weekend, Nurse did a shoot with RBC that included Poulin and Toronto Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews, which oriented  Nurse as knowledgeable athlete — not simply as a ladies’s hockey participant. Her Adidas marketing campaign has her aligned with huge names exterior of the sport, similar to Mahomes and Messi. “Our goal is to get her neck and neck with the best,” Balshin defined.

Final week, Nurse launched “Nursey Night,” through which she is going to host younger Black women at PWHL Toronto video games, meet with them postgame and mentor them all through the 12 months. The concept began as a means for Nurse to offer away her brother’s season tickets each every so often but it ended up with a $50,000 donation from Rogers and a partnership with Black Woman Hockey Membership, a non-profit group centered on making hockey more inclusive.

“People want to be involved in anything she does,” Balshin stated. “That’s kind of how we snowball things over here.”

On prime of promotional appearances and occasions, Nurse posts paid promotions on social media and has gotten more energetic on TikTok, posting movies whereas doing her make-up or skincare, or offering motivation to younger women and girls who go to her channels. All the pieces will get put right into a content material calendar that Balshin manages, and each morning she sends Nurse a textual content outlining “everything we have to worry about today.”

“She has made our lives a lot happier,” Nurse stated. “We got to a point where there was just too much happening and we couldn’t facilitate everything.”

With every little thing going on off the ice, it’s straightforward to neglect that Nurse is one of Canada’s greatest hockey gamers and a face of the PWHL in Toronto. She’s additionally the vice chairman of the PWHL Gamers Affiliation and is on the Hockey Canada participant committee.

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Sarah Nurse skates in opposition to PWHL Montreal’s Mariah Keopple at Scotiabank Area. (Mark Blinch / Getty Pictures)

“I would love to sit down and see her calendar,” Ambrose stated. “I am in awe of what she does away from the rink. I am in awe of what she does at the rink. I truthfully don’t know how she does it but I love her for it.”

Nurse is aware of it feels like there’s rather a lot on her plate but insists she’s excellent at compartmentalizing. Ryan, additionally her coach with PWHL Toronto, says Nurse’s different duties have “never negatively impacted who she is as a player.”

“I think she’s found ways to actually use it to make sure she still has an impact in the game,” he stated. “She’s under a spotlight and under a microscope so much. I think that sense of pride she probably gets with that has probably forced her to do the extra work.”

“I’m very conscious of the fact that for me to do all of this other stuff, I need to perform my best on the ice,” added Nurse, who scored two targets on Tuesday night time, together with the sport winner in opposition to Minnesota.

Gone are the days of gamers similar to Nurse making solely $2,000 a season to play hockey. In the PWHL, the minimal wage $35,000, with some prime gamers making as a lot as $100,000. Nonetheless, even the league’s greatest gamers aren’t getting wealthy taking part in ladies’s skilled hockey.

“The marketing does mean a lot to them and is a main source of income,” Balshin stated.

The work that Nurse is placing in can also be laying the observe for all times after hockey, every time that comes. It will take one thing unexpected for Nurse to not be at the 2026 Olympics.

Nurse has considered pursuing a number of paths, from actual property funding to launching a clothes line or a manufacturing firm. “I definitely have aspirations to expand and grow into different sectors,” she stated.

“We want her to be a face of hockey, period, not just women’s hockey. And of inclusion in sport,” Balshin stated. “She wants to show young girls that they can be so many things.”

(Illustration: Daniel Goldfarb / The Athletic. Photographs: Mark Blinch / Getty Pictures, Nicole Osborne / NHLI by way of Getty Pictures)