Each team has designated a Hockey Is for Everyone Player Ambassador to promote the League's broad diversity and inclusion initiatives. The Ambassador serves as a leader in the locker room, a leader in the community, and a public advocate to speak up and inspire others
As Diversity Ambassador, O'Ree has helped the NHL's Hockey is for Everyone initiative introduce more than 130,000 boys and girls of diverse backgrounds to the sport of hockey. For more than two decades, he has traveled thousands of miles across North America to build and support 26 local grassroots hockey programs across 40 locations, all geared towards serving underrepresented and/or economically disadvantaged youth. While advocating for diversity - and promoting an inclusive culture where "Hockey is for Everyone" - O'Ree stresses the importance of essential life skills that can be learned from the game. These include goal-setting, commitment, perseverance, and teamwork. In addition to these core values of hockey, O'Ree also promotes the importance of education.
In 2018, O'Ree was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in the builder category for his extraordinary commitment to growing and diversifying the game. His journey to the Hall of Fame is profiled alongside his life story and unparalleled impact in the award-winning documentary Willie, which was released in 2019. An educator's guide for the film (with curriculum related to inclusion and social justice) is available at lessonsfromwillie.com.
O'Ree's numerous awards and honors also include being inducted into the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame (1984); receiving the Lester Patrick Award for outstanding service to hockey in the United States (2003); becoming the inaugural recipient of the Bill Walsh Champion of Change Award, which recognizes an individual whose tenaciousness of purpose paved a path of opportunity to everyone (2007); and receiving the Sports Museum's Hockey Legacy Award in recognition of his trailblazing NHL career and his many contributions to the hockey community (2011).
In January 2008, the Fredericton, New Brunswick City Council named their new hockey arena after O'Ree (who was born and raised in Fredericton) in honor of his accomplishments.
In April 2010, O'Ree received the Order of Canada, Canada's highest civilian honor. He has also been nominated for the United States Congressional Gold Medal, which is the highest civilian honor that the U.S. Congress can bestow.
Each year, the National Hockey League awards the Willie O'Ree Community Hero Award to the person who "best utilizes hockey as a platform for participants to build character and develop important life skills for a more positive family experience" in honor of Willie's contributions.
O'Ree resides in San Diego, California with his wife, Deljeet, and daughter Chandra.