NEW YORK/TORONTO - April 1, 2021 – The National Hockey League (NHL®) today announced that nominations are open at NHL.com/OReeAward for the 2020-21 Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award presented by MassMutual, which is given to an individual who – through the sport of hockey – has positively impacted his or her community, culture or society. MassMutual is the NHL‘s Official Life Insurance partner in the U.S., and nominations are open until April 25, 2021.
Anyone who is a current legal resident of the fifty (50) United States (including the District of Columbia) or Canada who is at least thirteen (13) years of age or older – i.e. fans, community leaders, NHL Clubs, minor hockey associations, can submit a candidate for the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award presented by MassMutual.
“We applaud the intention and spirit of this wonderful honor that plays tribute to such a strong, respected hockey icon that exudes character traits that so many aspire to behold,” said Jennifer Halloran, head of brand and marketing, MassMutual. “Our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion is non-negotiable at MassMutual, and is an integral part of who we are. Teaming up with the NHL to present this award is yet another way that we are able to deliver on our promise to Live Mutual to make our world better.”
The candidates will be narrowed down to three finalists, to be announced in June. A winner will be selected and announced at a date to be determined. The winner will receive a $25,000 USD prize and the two finalists will each receive a $5,000 USD prize, each of which will be donated to a charity of their respective choice. The finalists, and ultimate winner, will be determined by fan vote and weighted votes from Willie O’Ree, the NHL and MassMutual.
“The Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award recognizes leaders who maximize hockey's ability to build healthy, vibrant, and inclusive communities that positively impact players, families, and society. We are thrilled to have MassMutual, a committed NHL partner, onboard this year to support our efforts and celebrate this extension of Willie's trailblazing legacy,” said Kim Davis, NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Social Impact, Growth Initiatives & Legislative Affairs. “We look forward to seeing all of the nominations, and in the coming months, giving the award to a deserving member of the hockey ecosystem who exemplifies what this award is about – using hockey as a platform to improve lives.”
The Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award presented by MassMutual honors former NHL forward Willie O’Ree, who on Jan. 18, 1958, became the first black player to compete in the League. O’Ree, who lost sight in his right eye at a young age, went on to play professional hockey for 21 years. For more than two decades, he has served as the NHL’s Diversity Ambassador, traveling across North America to schools and hockey programs to share his story and experiences as well as 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. In 2018, O’Ree was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Watch an award promotional video here.
Last season, Dampy Brar (Apna Hockey) was the recipient of the Award. Brar, alongside Lali Toor, co-founded Apna Hockey, an initiative that provides a network and support for South Asian hockey players. For more about the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award presented by MassMutual, including past winners, click here.