Nominees who have demonstrated an impressive record of leadership, collaboration or behavior that has transcended the sport, improving lives and helping others reach their potential. As outlined by the Hockey Principles, participation offers families value beyond making an individual a better player or even a better athlete. This award aims to recognize community heroes who seize everyday opportunities to make better people through hockey. Nominees for the award may include, but are not limited to: players, parents, siblings, coaches, referees, administrators, volunteers and rink owners and operators.
On January 18, 1958, Willie O'Ree became the first black player to compete in the NHL when he took the ice for the Boston Bruins. 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 is still 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 and 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. These characteristics are described in the Hockey Principles, and O'Ree is a living example of these Principles. The Willie O'Ree Community Hero award recipient will have similarly used hockey as a platform to build character, teach life skills and foster positive values.