The Willie O'Ree Community Hero Award is given annually "to an individual who - through the game of hockey - has positively impacted his or her community, culture or society."
Fans submitted candidates for the award and O'Ree, along with consultation from the NHL, narrowed the field to three finalists. One of those finalists is local DMV nominee Tammi Lynch.
Lynch is a hockey mom from Ellicott City, MD who took action when her son's teammate, Divyne Apollon of the Metro Maple Leafs was the victim of racial slurs during a game. In January 2019, she started a movement called 'Players Against Hate'.
Click here to vote for Tammi Lynch for the 2019 Willie O'Ree Community Hero Award
Lynch designed a logo following the racial incident, crossing out the word "Racism" with a hockey stick. What started as a small, local movement to help share Divyne's story and express how hockey is greater than hate has grown into an international platform.
Back in January shortly after the incident occurred, Divyne and his teammates were invited by Devante Smith-Pelly and John Carlson to attend a Capitals game and meet the players in the locker room afterwards.
Video: The Metro Maple Leafs Visit the Caps
Hockey players of all levels have shown their support by placing the logo on their gear and wearing buttons over their hearts. Fans and parents share their support by wearing shirts and sharing the word on social media.
Tammi was nominated for the award by fellow hockey mom, Vanessa Bauer. She found out when Willie O'Ree himself called all the finalists and let them know they had been selected.
"I remember looking around expecting to see him and there was going to be some sort of joke or news for Divyne," she said. "Then the reality of it started sinking in and I'm still overwhelmed at the support and interest everyone has shown."
"Being a finalist, gives our message so much more exposure across the country. The more allies we have who stand up to hate, the better."
Among its goals, Players Against Hate aims to develop educational materials for hockey players, coaches, officials, organizations and spectators; to sponsor scholarships in support of minority athletes; and to expand beyond hockey to other youth sports where hate impacts participants.
Tammi is building a safe community for those who have been victims of racial injustice by educating the public and acknowledging the problem. Since the movement has taken off, NHL players have reach out to victims personally after hearing about their stories. Tammi is proof that anyone can make a difference and help make this sport better, hockey > hate and Hockey is for Everyone.
"My hope is that we can change the culture so that racism and hate speech stops at all levels of the game. It is such a daunting task but one we all share a responsibility in changing," said Lynch.
The public is encouraged to vote for the ultimate winner, who will be revealed Wednesday, June 19, during the 2019 NHL Awards™ presented by Bridgestone at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.