Humboldt Broncos coach Darcy Haugan won the inaugural Willie O'Ree Community Hero Award, presented 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, at the 2018 NHL Awards presented by Hulu at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas on Wednesday.
Haugan, 42, was one of 16 people killed when the bus carrying the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League team to a playoff game was involved in an accident in Nipawin, Saskatchewan, on April 6.
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Haugan was a unique coach at an elite hockey program not entirely focused on wins and losses but helping his players become better people.
He also wanted his players to give back to the community. In 2015, Haugan earned Hockey Alberta's prestigious Meritorious Award for his contributions to hockey. He strongly believed that hockey is not about making players, but human beings, and was a frequent attendee at fundraisers, minor hockey clinics, and spoke with community leaders and schools about family, integrity and respect.
The award brings awareness to anonymous and uplifting stories of community, making it strong by using hockey as platform. Haugan did that by building young leaders and died doing what he loved, surrounded by the young people to whom he dedicated his life.
The other finalists were Debbie Bland from Etobicoke, Ontario, co-founder/builder of the Etobicoke Dolphins Girls Hockey League, and Neal Henderson, from Washington, D.C., founder of Fort Dupont Hockey Club.