The NHL will have a new award to present this year at the leagues’ 2018 awards show in June.
It was announced Tuesday that the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award will be awarded to a person not affiliated with the NHL that utilizes hockey as a platform to build character and develop important life skills for a more positive family experience.
“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.” O’Ree said, via the NHL.
O’Ree, who played with the Boston Bruins and serves as the Diversity Ambassador for the NHL’s Hockey is for Everyone campaign, was the first black player in the league when he debuted in 1958.
The 82-year-old has received many awards over the years, including the Lester Patrick Award in 2003 and Bill Walsh Champion of Change Award in 2007. He has also received the Order of Canada, the county’s highest civilian honor in 2010.
In January, the Bruins announced there would be a street hockey rink in honor of O’Ree in the Allston-Brighton area.
The former hockey player also has a hockey arena named after him in New Brunswick and is a member of the 1984 class New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images