Calgary, AB – The Western Hockey League announced today that former Swift Current Broncos star Sheldon Kennedy will be presented with the WHL Alumni Achievement Award for the extraordinary leadership role he has played in the awareness and prevention of child abuse. Kennedy will be presented with the award by the WHL and Swift Current Broncos prior to the Broncos’ next home game Sunday, January 10th in Swift Current.
Kennedy earned WHL and Memorial Cup championships with the Swift Current Broncos in 1989 and was also a member of Team Canada’s gold medal-winning team at the 1988 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship. Kennedy was named a Memorial Cup All-Star in 1989 in addition to making the WHL’s Eastern Conference Second All-Star Team.
Kennedy may be best known for the courage he displayed in charging his former coach with sexual assault in 1997. Since that time, Kennedy has become an inspiration to millions of abuse survivors around the world. The Manitoba product has also been instrumental in influencing both the government and private sectors to work collaboratively on policy changes to improve the way in which child abuse is handled, perceived and prevented. Kennedy is the co-founder of Respect Group Inc. which provides online education on harassment and abuse prevention to organizations across Canada, and recently established the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre dedicated to offering full support services for victims of child abuse, the first of its kind in Canada. For his tireless dedication and efforts, Kennedy was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2014.
Introduced in 2008, the WHL Alumni Achievement Award recognizes the outstanding accomplishments of players who have graduated from the WHL, both from a hockey and business standpoint. In presenting this particular Award, the WHL and Swift Current Broncos wish to honour the remarkable humanitarian work of Sheldon Kennedy, whose contributions to society extend well beyond the arena and corporate boardrooms.
“All of us in the WHL, particularly those who have been associated with the Swift Current Broncos organization, truly admire the courage and leadership Sheldon has demonstrated,” commented WHL Commissioner Ron Robison. “Not only has Sheldon courageously dealt with his own personal circumstance, but he continues to play a leading role in prevention and awareness while serving as an inspiration for child abuse survivors. The WHL and our Member Clubs are fully committed to continuing to educate our players and staff on the prevention and awareness of harassment and abuse to ensure we continue to provide the best possible environment for our players.”
Following Kennedy’s revelation of sexual abuse by his coach in 1997, the WHL, together with the Canadian Hockey League and Hockey Canada, responded by implementing a series of education programs and support services to ensure players and coaches understand what constitutes abuse, bullying and harassment and how to prevent it from occurring.
The WHL, which was awarded with a national citation by the Canadian Red Cross in 2013 for its contributions to the prevention of harassment and abuse in the game, is regarded as a leader in providing an ideal environment for players to pursue their hockey and academic goals. Offering Red Cross RespectEd workshops and Respect in Sport certification courses, the WHL recently established a new, league-wide WHL Security Network and a Police Impact presentation to ensure all WHL Member Clubs offer a safe and respectful environment for their players.
On January 29th, the WHL will host the WHL Players First Summit in Vancouver where each of the agencies which provide support services to WHL players and team personnel will be in attendance. The purpose of the Summit is to provide a forum for all WHL support services agencies to review current programming and to make recommendations on how to further integrate programs and improve the WHL player environment in the future. Agencies attending the WHL Players First Summit will include the Canadian Red Cross, Respect in Sport, the Canadian Mental Health Association, police service representatives and the WHL Security Network.