The NHL announced the creation of the Willie O'Ree Community Hero Award, which will recognize the commitment of those improving lives and strengthening communities through hockey. The award, unveiled Friday, will be presented at the 2018 NHL Awards in Las Vegas.
The award will be presented to a person (not affiliated with the NHL or any of its clubs), team, league, rink or association who best utilizes hockey as a platform for participants to build character and develop important life skills for a more positive family experience.
"I believe in our youth, and in the power of the game of hockey to unlock the on- and off-ice potential of boys and girls around the world," said O'Ree, the NHL's Diversity Ambassador for the Hockey is for Everyone initiative and the first black player in the NHL. "I am honored to be chosen as the namesake for this award, which will shine a light on many others within the hockey community who share a similar belief, passion and vision of the future of this game."
Starting May 1, nominees will be accepted on social media or via an online form (LINK: www.nhl.com/OReeAward ). A committee including O'Ree will choose six finalists before voting is opened to the public from May 15-30. The winner will be invited to take part in the NHL Awards.
"We are privileged to honor Willie with the creation of this new community award," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "He has dedicated his life to equality and inclusion; to supporting young people of all backgrounds who are following their dreams; and to using hockey as a platform to build character and teach life skills."