Calgary’s Kevin Hodgson, the executive director of HEROS (Hockey Education Reaching Out Society), became the fourth winner of the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award, the NHL announced Wednesday. (Photo Credit – NHL)
The award honors Willie O’Ree, who became the first Black player to play in the NHL on Jan. 18, 1958, has spent more than two decades as the NHL’s diversity ambassador and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018.
Hodgson, quoted in a news release by NHL, said “I didn’t know that her doing that that day was going to completely alter my path. From Day One, I could just see that something special could happen there. You’re watching kids do something that they never thought they were going to be able to do.”
He also added “Give them a chance to try something they never thought they’d be able to try, then they start to believe that anything’s possible.”
“Along with Hodgson, the other finalists were Renee Hess, the founder of Black Girl Hockey Club, a nonprofit organization that aims to inspire and sustain passion for hockey within the Black community, particularly among women; and Howard Smith, the co-founder with Cliff Benson of Pittsburgh I.C.E. (Inclusion Creates Equality), a Hockey is for Everyone program that aims to offer children of all socioeconomic backgrounds the chance to learn and play hockey,” NHL said.
According to NHL, Hodgson will get $25,000 for the charity of his choice and the other finalists will get $5,000.