The Western Hockey League announced on May 7, on behalf of the WHL Board of Governors, that Sheldon Kennedy, an anti-abuse advocate and former captain of the Swift Current Broncos, has been named this year’s recipient of the WHL Governors Award.
“As a young boy I dreamed of playing hockey and maybe, one day, in the WHL. I never would have thought that my dream would change so much,” Kennedy said. “By working together we have no doubt made hockey and the WHL a leader in RESPECT for all. I am grateful and honored to be recognized for the WHL Governors Award and accept it on behalf of all those who have given their voice to positive change and for those leaders who have shown courage to implement that change.”
The WHL Governors Award is the highest honour the WHL bestows on an individual who has been associated with the League. The WHL Governors Award is presented annually to an individual who, through their outstanding hockey and overall contributions to the game, has impacted on the growth and development of the WHL.
“For over 20 years, Sheldon Kennedy has been regarded as Canada’s leading advocate for a safe and positive environment for athletes,” commented WHL Commissioner Ron Robison. “Sheldon’s work in the respect area has been an inspiration, not only to athletes and sport organizations across Canada, but to millions of abuse survivors.
“Sheldon had an outstanding junior hockey career, but his legacy will be measured by the contributions he has made to ensure young athletes can safely pursue their athletic endeavours without fear of harassment or abuse.”
Kennedy starred for the Broncos between 1986 and 1989, captaining them to the WHL Championship and Memorial Cup in 1989. Internationally, he represented Canada at the 1988 and 1989 IIHF World Junior Championships, winning gold in 1988.
Appearing in 310 NHL regular season games between 1989 and 1997, Kennedy played for the Detroit Red Wings, Calgary Flames and Boston Bruins as part of his professional hockey career.
Since disclosing his personal experience of abuse, Kennedy has become a leading advocate for the empowerment of young athletes. A co-founder of the Respect Group Inc. with Wayne McNeil, Kennedy has been instrumental in the establishment of national programming to educate and empower athletes and sports leaders on the importance of respect.
Kennedy’s leadership has helped transform the game of hockey and sport throughout Canada. His efforts have helped foster collaborative efforts between governments at all levels and the private sector. Together, they’ve supported respect education initiatives while making improvements to abuse-related policies and laws.
In 2020, Kennedy was named an honouree of the Order of Hockey in Canada. He was also invested as a Member of the Order of Canada in 2014, inducted to the Order of Manitoba in 2015, was appointed to the Alberta Order of Excellence in 2016 and was named a recipient of the Hockey Canada Order of Merit in 2018.
Born in Brandon, Man. and raised in Elkhorn, Man., Kennedy has a son, Lochlin, with his partner Jana and a daughter, Ryan.
Recipients of the WHL Governors Award:
2018-19: Ken King
2017-18: Rick Brodsky
2016-17: Ed Chynoweth
2015-16: Lanny McDonald
2014-15: Russ Parker
2013-14: Jack Brodsky
2012-13: Jim Donlevy
2011-12: Ben Wiebe
2010-11: Terry Simpson
2009-10: Ken Hodge
2008-09: Bob Brown
2007-08: Bill Hunter, Scotty Munro, Jim Piggott
2006-07: Bob Cornell
2005-06: Jack McLeod
2004-05: Pat Ginnell, Ernie McLean, Bill Hicke, Del Wilson