BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Jan. 24, 2018 – The Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) is proud to partner with the Headway Foundation for a Concussion Awareness Weekend on Feb. 2-4, 2018. Over the weekend, which aims to provide a platform for players to unite in creating a positive mental shift in athletes' approach to concussions. all WCHA Men's and Women's League student-athletes will be wearing Headway stickers on their helmets to promote a "New Tough Campaign."
The WCHA is joining with student-athletes from ECAC Hockey and the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) on this initiative.
"Student-athlete well-being is the ultimate priority for the WCHA, and there is no more paramount example than brain health," said Bill Robertson, WCHA president and Men's League commissioner, and Katie Million, WCHA vice president and Women's League commissioner in a joint statement. "Hockey players are lauded for being 'tough,' but it is imperative that student-athletes know that this does NOT mean risking serious brain injury. Student-athletes – in any sport – need to be applauded and supported for having the strength to recognize and report possible concussion symptoms. We thank the Headway Foundation and the student-athletes of the WCHA, ECAC Hockey and NCHC for taking the lead on this initiative and embodying the 'New Tough' spirit."
Student-athletes from the WCHA's 10 Men's League schools and seven Women's League teams will be participating in a variety of ways. In addition to wearing helmet stickers, players are encouraged to make the Headway Foundation "New Tough Pact," a commitment to: Report possible concussion symptoms and stay patient during recovery; encourage brain-injured teammates to seek help and offer support while they heal; and, play the game within its rules (avoiding illegal hits from behind, and to the back). Teams are also encouraged to share their support and help raise awareness via social media.
Additionally, fans will be able to pledge a donation for every goal their favorite WCHA Men's or Women's League team scores, with all funds going directly to support the New Tough Campaign. To pledge, visit: http://headwayfoundation.com/2018goalschallenge/.
"We couldn't be more excited and humbled by the participation of so many collegiate hockey teams during our second annual Concussion Awareness Weekend," said Headway Foundation co-founder Paige Decker. The sheer number of athletes rallying behind this weekend is a testament to the progress being made about the proper ways to handle concussions in sports, and we are grateful be involved with the movement."
Added co-founder Josephine Pucci: "Oftentimes making a comeback and playing through injury is glorified in sports, but with New Tough, we are acknowledging that sometimes dealing with concussions in the right way is the harder thing to do, and it requires a strong mental toughness during much uncertainty."
The five WCHA Men's League series the weekend of Feb. 2-4 are: Northern Michigan at Alabama Huntsville, Ferris State at Alaska, Lake Superior State at Bemidji State, Michigan Tech at Bowling Green and Alaska Anchorage at Minnesota State. The WCHA Women's League will feature Bemidji State at Minnesota State, Wisconsin at Ohio State and Minnesota at St. Cloud State, while Minnesota Duluth will host the Minnesota Whitecaps in an exhibition game.
"On behalf of Headway, it is important to celebrate the increase in leagues and teams supporting this dialogue," commented Headway Foundation team member Alexandria Bydalek. "The expansion from 24 teams in 2017 to over 100 this year shows the commitment to take this injury seriously."
WCHA "New Tough Campaign" Team Leaders
Danny Kiraly (University of Alaska Anchorage); Matt Anholt (University of Alaska Fairbanks); Josh Kestner and Brandon Parker (University of Alabama in Huntsville); Mitch McLain and Tyler Spezia (Bowling Green State University); Kyle Bauman, Jordan Heller and Bailey Wright (Bemidji State University); Corey Mackin (Ferris State University); Aidan Wright (Lake Superior State University); Brent Baltus and Dylan Steman (Michigan Technological University); Cara Piazza (University of Minnesota); Catherine Johnson (University of Minnesota Duluth); Corbin Boyd, Max Coatta, Brad McClure and C.J. Suess (Minnesota State University); Robbie Payne (Northern Michigan University); Jincy Dunne (Ohio State University); Emma Turbyville (St. Cloud State University); Claudia Kepler (University of Wisconsin).
About the New Tough Campaign
The center for Disease Control Reports that Approximately 69% of student-athletes neglect to report possible concussion symptoms. New Tough is a campaign that addresses this by refraining and broadening an athlete's definition of toughness. It challenges athletes to handle concussion properly by encouraging symptom reporting, offering avenues for teammates to support each other and promoting safe play. Read more here: www.headwayfoundation.com/newtough.
About the Headway Foundation
Headway Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit addressing sports concussions. It was founded by three former ECAC Hockey student-athletes who endured concussions during collegiate play - Paige Decker (Yale Women's Hockey '14), Josephine Pucci (Harvard Women's Hockey '15 and Sochi Olympian) and Danny Otto (Yale Men's Hockey '12). To contact the Headway Foundation, you can visit their Web site at www.headwayfoundation.com or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) Men's League
The Western Collegiate Hockey Association, among the most historic, tradition-rich and successful conferences in all of collegiate athletics, will proudly mark its 66th season of men's competition in 2017-18. The 10-team Division 1 conference consists of the University of Alabama in Huntsville (Chargers), the University of Alaska Anchorage (Seawolves), the University of Alaska (Nanooks), Bemidji State University (Beavers), Bowling Green State University (Falcons), Ferris State University (Bulldogs), Lake Superior State University (Lakers), Michigan Technological University (Huskies), Minnesota State University (Mavericks) and Northern Michigan University (Wildcats). For more information, visit wcha.com.
About the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) Women's League
The Women's League of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association has won a record 16 national championships in 18 seasons since its inception in 1999 (including 15 of a possible 17 NCAA titles), while producing seven Patty Kazmaier Award winners, 95 All-Americans and numerous Olympic and national team members. The seven-team Division 1 conference consists of: Bemidji State University (Beavers), the University of Minnesota (Golden Gophers), the University of Minnesota Duluth (Bulldogs), Minnesota State University (Mavericks), Ohio State University (Buckeyes), St. Cloud State University (Huskies) and the University of Wisconsin (Badgers). For more information, visit www.wcha.com.