Minnesotan named finalist for the NHL's Willie O'Ree Community Hero Award

Meredith Lang of Minneapolis is one of three finalists for the Willie O'Ree Community Hero Award, which recognizes a person who has had a positive impact on their community, society, or culture through the sport of hockey. Lang co-founded The Hockey Niñas and Minnesota Unbounded, two groups encouraging young girls of color to play hockey.

MN Unbounded photo at Target Field.png
Minnesota Unbounded players pose for a photo at the Winter Classic at Target Field Jan. 1, 2022.
Contributed photo

NEW YORK — The three finalists for the NHL's annual Willie O'Ree Community Hero Award have been announced, and included is the Twin Cities' own Meredith Lang.

The Rink Live spoke with Meredith in January about her work co-founding both The Hockey Niñas and Minnesota Unbounded.

The Hockey Niñas is an organization that aims to recruit, support and encourage girls of color within the sport of hockey. Minnesota Unbounded is a hockey league made up entirely of girls of color from the players to the coaches.

To learn more about Meredith Lang and both organizations, watch the full video story below!

The Willie O'Ree Community Award is named after the first black player to compete in the NHL and is given to an individual who has worked to make a positive impact on his or her community, culture or society to make people better through hockey. It has been awarded each year since 2018.


O'Ree played professionally for over 20 years despite losing nearly all vision in his right eye after being struck by a puck early in his career. He is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and served as the NHL's Diversity Ambassador for many years.

The winner of the award will be decided by both a fan vote and weighted votes. The winner will receive $25,000 while the other two finalists will receive $5,000 to be donated to a charity of their choice.

Voting information and details about the other finalists is available online . Voting closes on April 17.

Omaha native Lincoln Hjelm currently plays for Northstar Christian Academy in Alexandria, Minn., but he recently announced his commitment to play for his hometown team at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

Related Topics: YOUTH SPORTS
Sydney Wolf is a reporter for The Rink Live, primarily covering youth hockey. She joined the team in November of 2021 and graduated from St. Cloud State University with a B.S. in Mass Communications and a minor in Writing and Rhetoric Studies and was a part of the University Honors Program.
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