The Willie O'Ree Community Hero Award is an annual award established by the National Hockey League is presented to the person who best utilizes hockey as a platform to help people build character and develop important life skills for a more positive family experience. The award is named in honor of Willie O'Ree who broke the color barrier in the NHL. It was first awarded at the conclusion of the 2017-18 playing season. The award is presented at the annual NHL Awards show. The award is voted upon by hockey fans after the nomination list is reduced to the finalists.
Honorees[edit | edit source]
Note chosen recipient in bold.
2018 Finalists[edit | edit source]
- Debbie Bland - co-founder/builder of the Etobicoke Dolphins Girls Hockey League
- Darcy Haugan - coach of the Humboldt Broncos who was killed along with 15 other members of the team on April 6, 2018. He was also honored with the establishment of the Darcy Haugan Memorial North American Coach of the Year Award.
- Neal Henderson - of Upper Marlboro, Maryland who runs the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club which is the oldest minority hockey league in North America. Henderson would be inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 2019 for his contributions to the game.
The surviving members of the bus crash and Haugan's family accepted the award on behalf of Darcy Haugan.
2019 Finalists[edit | edit source]
- Anthony Benavides - of Detroit, Michigan, director of the Clark Park Recreation Center
- Tammi Lynch - of Ellicott City, Maryland, founder of Players Against Hate
- Rico Phillips - of Flint, Michigan, founder of the Flint Inner-City Youth Hockey Program.