The Western Hockey League has announced that Sheldon Kennedy has been named the 2020 recipient of the WHL Governors Award – the highest honour bestowed upon an individual in association with the league.
Kennedy, 50, is a former NHL player who spent time with the Detroit Red Wings, Calgary Flames and Boston Bruins, following a highly-documented WHL career in Swift Current playing under Graham James and the Broncos. The nine-year pro has openly documented his struggles stemming from sexual abuse suffered through Graham James and his previous cocaine addiction.
“As a young boy I dreamed of playing hockey and maybe, one day, in the WHL,” Kennedy reflected in a league-issued press release. “I never would have thought that my dream would change so much. 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.”
Born in Brandon, Kennedy put up 134 goals, 287 points and 182 penalty minutes in 175 regular season WHL games, before adding another 17 goals and 44 points in 26 postseason games for Swift Current between 1986 and 1989. The 5-foot-10, 175-pound forward served as the Broncos’ captain in his final season after being selected by the Red Wings 80th overall in the 1988 NHL Entry Draft the previous summer.
“For over 20 years, Sheldon Kennedy has been regarded as Canada’s leading advocate for a safe and positive environment for athletes,” WHL Commissioner Ron Robison added in the release. “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.”
Now alongside company consisting of names such as Lanny McDonald, Ed Chynoweth and Ken King, Kennedy has earned his place through his advocation of respect in sports. He co-founded Respect Group Inc. and has helped ensure proper educational programming is in place for various athletes across the country. Back in 1998, Kennedy actually rollerbladed across Canada to raise funds and awareness for those suffering the effects sexual abuse.
1988 – World Junior Hockey Championship Gold Medalist
1989 – Memorial Cup Champion and Tournament All-Star
2014 – Invested as Member of the Order of Canada
2015 – Inducted to the Order of Manitoba
2016 – Appointed to the Alberta Order of Excellence
2018 – Named a Recipient of the Hockey Canada Order of Merit
2020 – Named an Honouree of the Order of Hockey in Canada