Calgary’s Kevin Hodgson named winner of 2021 Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award

Kevin Hodgson on the ice with HEROS. (Courtesy of HEROS)

Calgary’s Kevin Hodgson has won the 2021 Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award, the NHL announced Wednesday.

The award is given to “an individual who – through the sport of hockey – has positively impacted his or her community, culture or society.”

Hodgson’s HEROS program (Hockey Education Reaching Out Society), for which he serves as executive director, works with at-risk youth and with youth who experience physical and cognitive challenges, providing them with a safe and inclusive on-ice environment. The non-profit has 28 programs operating in 12 cities across Canada, consisting of both on-ice hockey programming and off-ice opportunities for personal development and scholarship assistance. Over the past two decades, nearly 10,000 kids have participated in the program.

The winner was determined by a fan vote and weighted votes from O’Ree himself, the NHL and sponsor MassMutual. Hodgson will receive $25,000 USD, while the other two finalists — Renee Hess and Howard Smith — will each receive a $5,000 USD prize.

New Jersey Devils star P.K. Subban presented the award to Hodgson, who said he was honoured to be nominated alongside Hess and Smith.

"I think looking at the screen right now, this is what hockey can do," Hodgson said of his fellow nominees. "I think it shows the power of sport. Sport has the ability to bring people together that otherwise on paper may not have anything in common and we all share this incredible passion for a game that has the ability to do so much for kids who need it. It's just such a privilege for me to be on a screen with all of the people here.

"People who know me know I'm not lost for words, but I'm struggling right now P.K. This is really hard for me to process."

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