EDMONTON, AB - Alberta's own Dampy Brar was named the winner of the NHL's 2019-20 Willie O'Ree Community Hero Award on Tuesday.
The award, named after the first Black player in NHL history, recognizes an individual who, like O'Ree, has used hockey to make a positive impact on his or her community, culture or society.
Brar, a Calgary resident who played professionally in the International Hockey League and West Coast Hockey League, mentors, coaches and teaches hockey to kids and started an initiative with his partner Lali Toor, called Apna Hockey.
The program, which runs out of Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto and India, provides support to South Asian and other ethnic players, connects the community, highlights players and parents, and spreads information.
In 2018, he also worked with Hayley Wickenheiser and the Wickfest team to bring the first women's ice hockey team from India to Canada. Brar traveled with the team and provided mentorship, and Apna hockey held coaching sessions for them. Last year, Brar flew to Leh Ladakh, India, located in the Himalayas, to attend their ice hockey championships and took his initiative internationally.
Brar is an advocate of girls playing hockey since ethnic girls are even more unlikely to play the sport. Brar continues to play hockey in the Heritage League and leads his league in scoring. This summer, he was scheduled to go to Europe for the World Masters Ball Hockey tournament as a member of Team Canada, but it was postponed due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
Brar was named the winner of an online vote. The other finalists were Alexandria Briggs-Blake, president of the Tucker Road Parent Hockey Organization in Maryland, and John Haferman, co-founder of the Columbus Ice Hockey Club.