This past week, Manitoba’s Sheldon Kennedy was officially etched into the Order of Hockey in Canada – the top honour presented by Hockey Canada for the past nine years. It took a full year to make it happen, but that’s how pandemic times seem to operate.
Introduced with its inaugural group of Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, Cassie Campbell, Jean Beliveau and Gord Renwick back in 2012, the Order of Hockey in Canada is presented annually to honourees on the basis of their “outstanding contributions or service to the growth and development of the sport of hockey in Canada, which may include players, coaches, officials, administrators, executives, trainers, physicians, inventors or any other person whose role or service in the game is recognized as extraordinary.”
Kennedy, who turned 52 on Wednesday, was announced as one of three winners for the 2020 year, alongside the three winners from 2021. Due to COVID-19, the celebration for both election years was held on the same date. Joining Kennedy in 2020 was Ken Dryden and Dr. Charles Tator. The 2021 Order included Bill Hay, Angela James and Kevin Lowe.
“Upon reflection of receiving the Order of Hockey in Canada, I sincerely feel that this award represents far more than just “Sheldon” accomplishments,” Kennedy wrote following his acceptance. “This recognition, is clearly for an amazing Team Effort.
“First off, my good friend of 23 years and business partner, Wayne McNeil, deserves as much credit as I do for sharing, and delivering on, our common vision. For the 10’s of thousands of disclosure letters I have received since 1997, after my story broke, my gratitude to each of you for baring your souls and for your courage. Your words reminded me that this is not an isolated issue and kept me going!
“Thank you to Hockey Canada for your leadership in making Speak Out mandatory in 1997 for all coaches. In my mind, a bold step and the REAL beginning of the Safe Sport Movement in Canada, and, perhaps the world! And to all of the proactive sport leaders who have taken their own bold steps to make RESPECT education a requirement. You have created a sport environment that values child protection as priority one. Not a button or a poster, but the real deal. Of course, there is more to be done and there always will be.
“But let’s pause for a moment, accept this award together, and commit to continuing this unique collaboration to keep Canadian kids safe and respected while they enjoy the wonderment of sport!”
Born in Brandon, but raised in Elkhorn, Kennedy 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.
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.
Now alongside company consisting of names such as Paul Henderson, Mark Messier and Steve Yzerman, Kennedy has earned his place through his advocation of Respect in Sport. 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 of sexual abuse.
Following his induction into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame, Kennedy was subsequently awarded with the 2020 Olds College Honorary Degree for his ‘significant contributions to the prevention of bullying and abuse’. Although being raised in Manitoba, Kennedy worked on plenty of projects in Canada’s west, while living in Alberta. His work continues to be recognized, as individual awards pile up.
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 – WHL Governors Award
2020 – Class of 2020 Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame
2020 – 2020 Olds College Honorary Degree
2020 – Named an Honouree of the Order of Hockey in Canada
A selection committee of 12 members is appointed by the Order of Hockey in Canada executive committee, which was established by Hockey Canada. The selection committee members, representing a cross-section of individuals with great and varied experience around the game of hockey in Canada, are selected for a three-year term and can serve for a maximum of nine years. Each committee member can only bring forward one name as an official nomination for consideration annually. A maximum of three recipients will be elected annually, by an affirmative vote of at least 75 percent.