The tragic collision between the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) team’s bus and a semi-trailer on April 6 claimed the lives of 16 players and staff on their way to a playoff game in Nipawin. Thirteen others were injured.
Haugan, from Alberta, was in his third season as head coach of the SJHL team when he passed away at 42.
The inaugural award aims to recognize community heroes who seized everyday opportunities to make better people through the sport of hockey.
“Haugan left a lasting impact on his community of Humboldt, Sask., on every community which was fortunate enough to have him as a resident, and on junior hockey,” his nominee profile reads.
“Darcy left behind, in all of those he touched, his spirit and passion for the game, his love for his beautiful family, and his example of dedication to his community.”
The new NHL honor is named after hockey pioneer Willie O’Ree, who became the first black player to compete in the league on Jan. 18, 1958. He went on to play 21 years of professional hockey.
O’Ree, born and raised in New Brunswick, also has served as the NHL’s diversity ambassador for over two decades.
WATCH: Ontario man completes 1,200 km walk for Humboldt Broncos
The two other finalists are Debbie Bland, a co-founder of the Etobicoke Dolphins Girls Hockey League in Ontario, and Washington’s Neal Henderson, who founded the Fort Dupont Hockey Club.
People can cast their ballot online for who they think deserves to win the award until voting closes at 11 a.m. CT on June 1.
The first recipient will be unveiled on June 20 at the 2018 NHL Awards in Las Vegas.