NEW YORK — Following last night’s ceremony in which Willie O’Ree’s number 22 was retired by the Boston Bruins, the National Hockey League (NHL®) announced today that the nominations are open to NHL.com/OReeAward for the 2021-22 Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award, presented by MassMutual, to an individual who has made a positive impact on his or her community, culture or society through the sport of hockey. MassMutual is the NHL’s official life insurance partner in the US and is open for nomination until February 6, 2022.
The Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award, presented by MassMutual, honors former NHL forward Willie O’Ree, who became the first black player to participate in the League on January 18, 1958, when he stepped onto the ice for the Boston Bruins. Last night, on January 18, 2022, O’Ree’s No. 22 was officially retired by the Bruins.
For over two decades, O’Ree has been an ambassador for Hockey is for Everyone and a force for inclusion and social change, using hockey as a platform to build character, teach life skills and share the values of the game – perseverance, teamwork, and dedication.
“Help us celebrate those who, like Willie O’Ree, are making a positive impact on their community, culture or society through hockey,” said Jennifer Halloran, head of brand and marketing at MassMutual. “We applaud those who are mutually alive and positive forces in their communities, sports teams and lives.”
Last season Kevin Hodgson, Executive Director of HEROS (Hockey Education Reaching Out Society) received $25,000 USD as the recipient of the award. The donation helped fund the launch of three new SuperHEROS programs, offering free hockey to 72 boys and girls living with physical and cognitive challenges, with a customized curriculum on the ice in a safe and inclusive environment. The money was also used to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks, gloves and hand sanitizer, to keep children safe on the ice.
“This award recognizes the men and women in the hockey community who are doing the real work day after day to fulfill our mission to make hockey for everyone,” said Kim Davis, NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Social Impact, Growth Initiatives and Legislature Affairs. “These champions, through their leadership, perseverance and love for the game, provide the right conditions for people of all backgrounds and life experiences to learn and grow through the sport.”
All legal residents of the fifty (50) United States (including the District of Columbia) or Canada who are at least thirteen (13) years of age or older – that is, fans, community leaders, NHL clubs, small hockey associations, may submit a nominee for the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award presented by MassMutual.
The candidates will be narrowed down to three finalists, who will be announced in April. A winner will be selected and announced at the NHL Awards™ ceremony in June. The winner will receive a prize of $25,000 USD and the two finalists will each receive a prize of $5,000 USD, each of which will be donated to a charity of their choice. The finalists and overall winner will be determined by fan votes and weighted votes from Willie O’Ree, the NHL and MassMutual.
For more information about the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award presented by MassMutual, including past winners, click here.
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