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Chevrolet is buying hockey helmets for five-year-old hockey players in Canada. (Zedcor Wholly Owned/(c) Zedcor Wholly Owned)
Chevrolet is buying hockey helmets for five-year-old hockey players in Canada. (Zedcor Wholly Owned/(c) Zedcor Wholly Owned)

Chevrolet joining fight against concussions Add to ...

Chevrolet has become the latest company to climb aboard the concussion prevention bandwagon, and it's doing so by providing a free helmet to every five-year-old hockey player in Canada.

The auto maker announced Tuesday it will partner with Bauer and Hockey Canada to provide more than 20,000 helmets for children born in 2006, who are registered for the 2011-12 season.

GM Canada spokesman Jason Easton said the company wanted to expand its Safe and Fun Hockey program and felt protecting the heads of new players was a good way to start.

"Recently there's been more attention given toward the culture of hockey, and how safe or unsafe it is," Easton said. "I think as companies, we look to find ways to make a positive impact that are also beneficial for our brand.

"For Chevrolet, in particular, it really is a family brand and it's a natural fit to do something like this. We have products that are safety leaders and understand that there's been this renewed focus on safety and injuries in hockey. We felt this was an appropriate time to make a big statement."

It's a statement more and more companies seem to be making of late as the issue of hits to the head and concussions in hockey continues to receive plenty of attention.

Earlier this year, the Bank of Nova Scotia and Reebok International Ltd. partnered with ThinkFirst, a non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention of brain and spinal-cord injuries, to produce a video advising young players how to prevent concussions and head trauma on the ice.

Scotiabank also sponsored the annual Baycrest hockey tournaments dedicated to raising awareness and money for Alzheimer's and brain trauma.

Marketing experts say these initiatives are examples of companies wanting to associate themselves with a particular viewpoint on a controversial issue.

"Any time you're trying to build a brand, you're trying to build positive associations," said David Soberman, Canadian national chair in strategic marketing at the Rotman School of Management.

"Obviously, there's not necessarily any kind of link between the hockey helmet and the vehicles they're selling, but it's more of an issue of trying to create associations - warm and fuzzy feelings - with the brand.

"They're hitting on a concern that Canadians have and are being associated with that. That's a positive."

On hand for Tuesday's announcement at the Toronto Maple Leafs practice facility was NHL legend Bobby Orr and former Canadian women's hockey star Cassie Campbell-Pascall, who both take part in the Safe and Fun Hockey camps held across the country every year.

Orr says he enjoys being part of the program as he believes there needs to be more focus on having fun and being safe in minor hockey instead of trying to blaze a path to the NHL.

"When our kids go to the rink we just have to make sure the parents, coaches and officials understand that they're there for fun and to be able to play safely," he said. "Those values they can use no matter what they do in the future. The chance these kids become pros is very slim.

"We have some wonderful volunteers. But there are still some that are not there for the right reasons. You've all seen them. It's like the mortgage is at stake if they don't win a peewee game, which is silly."

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