A former NHL star speaks out on concussions, but it’s not his story

Who: YWCA Metro Vancouver, with Rethink for strategy and creative.

What: “Concussion Story,” a national campaign using public concern about concussions in sports/hockey to deliver a poignant message about intimate partner violence. It features longtime Vancouver Canucks star Trevor Linden.

When & Where: The campaign launched today (May 16), to coincide with Victims and Survivors of Crime Week (May 14-16). It is running across broadcast media donated by Sportsnet and CBC, directing to an informational website, MyConcussionStory.com.

Why: Much of YWCA Metro Vancouver’s marketing strategy is built around finding the “sweet spot” between relevant information, data, etc. that aligns with its priorities, said Amy Juschka, director of communications and advocacy.

“We want to be provocative and launch campaigns that are really going to [reach] some of our objectives around gender equity with parts of the public we may not really reach,” she said. “And that’s where something like this can be really strong and impactful.”

Concussions are top-of-mind as the third round of the Stanley Cup playoffs approaches and the physical intensity continues to ramp up. This campaign is about communicating a sober statistic: for every NHL concussion—research pegs it at 5.8 to 6.1 concussions per 100 games—7,000 women, girls and gender diverse people suffer the same injury as a result of intimate partner violence.

The extensive work around concussions carried out by professional sports leagues like the NHL has led to innovative rule changes, and more funding for research, said Juschka. “We want to follow that same approach, because we’ve seen it be really impactful.”

It’s a complicated problem requiring policy change, funding for research, and more education for frontline workers who deal with people affected by intimate partner violence, she said. “But since most people don’t know that this is even really happening, the first step is just creating some awareness.”

How: The campaign is led by a video ad featuring Linden, who spent 16 of his 2o NHL seasons with the Canucks and is a beloved figure in Vancouver.

Sitting on a couch, a visibly upset Linden explains a typical hockey scenario leading to a concussion: “He came from behind me. I didn’t see it coming,” he says. He recalls being hit in the side of the head, feeling confused, his ears ringing, and says he continues to experience pain, mood swings, and debilitating headaches.

He then sits back and says “But this isn’t my story,” as the camera switches to a female survivor of intimate partner abuse, who informs viewers, “It’s mine.” The closing super then outlines the statistic that was the basis for the campaign, before directing to MyConcussionStory.com.

“We had this really shocking stat that was really a starting point,” said Juschka. “We said there’s something there to make it relevant for everybody. Trevor is so well-respected, a former Olympian and NHL player, and [with him] as the message carrier, people are really going to listen. A lot of times it’s women talking about intimate partner violence, and we thought it would be really strong to have a man from a sport where concussions do happen carry that message for a woman who has experienced the same injury.”

And we quote: “In sports, concussions happen on primetime TV with millions of people watching. We wanted to draw parallels to those publicized injuries as a reminder of what’s happening every day behind closed doors.” — Morgan Tierney, partner, executive creative director, Rethink

Chris Powell