Jason McCrimmon of Detroit, Michigan, is the recipient of the 2023 Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award, given to an individual who – through the sport of hockey – has positively impacted their community, culture or society in the United States.
This season, the NHL presented the 2023 Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award to one winner in the United States and the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award presented by Hyundai to one winner in Canada – Dean Smith (Halifax, Nova Scotia).
McCrimmon is the President and Founder of Detroit Ice Dreams Youth Hockey Association, a nonprofit youth hockey organization that minimizes the barriers that prevent underrepresented communities from access to ice hockey. In addition to on-ice programming, McCrimmon gives back through turkey giveaways, care packages for the homeless, adopt a family for Christmas, and provides backpacks filled with school supplies to children in need. McCrimmon is also the Associate Head Coach, GM, and Owner of the USPHL’s Motor City Gamblers Junior A team. Motor City has sent numerous players to the collegiate level to further their career on and off the ice. As a retired player, Jason has played and excelled at every level, including amateur, collegiate, professional, and as a coach (2014 MWJHL coach of the year). He is also part of the NHLCA BIPOC Coaches Program as the Detroit Red Wings Youth Ambassador. Watch a video about McCrimmon’s community impact here.
“The work Jason has done and continues to do with the Detroit Ice Dreams Youth Hockey Association to further the game of hockey is inspiring,” said Willie O’Ree. “Jason’s dedication to his association has positively impacted many children and their families throughout Detroit due to his hard work. I’m proud to present the award to such a deserving individual. Congratulations, Jason.”
Other finalists for the 2023 Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award were Karen Ota-O’Brien (Coconut Creek, Florida), founder of the South Florida Women’s Hockey Program, the Lucky Pucks Hockey Club and co-founder and current President of the Florida Women’s Hockey League, and Marty Richardson (Littleton, Colorado), founder of Dawg Nation Hockey Foundation.
Fans submitted candidates for the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award at NHL.com/OReeAward. The three finalists, and ultimate winner, were determined by a judging panel with weighted votes from Willie O’Ree and the NHL. A public fan vote also helped determine the winner.
McCrimmon will receive a $25,000 USD prize and Ota-O’Brien and Richardson will each receive a $5,000 USD prize, each of which will be donated to a charity of their respective choice.
The Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award 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.