First awarded in 2017-18, the award is presented annually “to an individual who – through the game of hockey – has positively impacted his or her community, culture or society.”
The Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award honors former NHL forward Willie O’Ree, who on Jan. 18, 1958, became the first black player to compete in the League. O’Ree, who lost sight in his right eye at a young age, went on to play professional hockey for 21 years. His perseverance is unrivaled, and his impact on the game and the lives of young players still is felt today.
For more than two decades, O’Ree has served as the NHL’s Diversity Ambassador, traveling across North America to schools and hockey programs to share his story and experiences as well as to promote messages of inclusion, dedication and confidence. O’Ree has used hockey as a platform to build character and teach life skills, and has used his influence to foster positive values through the sport. Learn more about Willie O'Ree