ELLICOTT CITY, Md. — It's awards season, and Tammi Lynch is right in the middle of it.
“Mandalay Bay is where the awards ceremony is. So, they're taking us there, and we're walking the red carpet,” she said.
Lynch is one of three finalists for the NHL's Willie O'Ree Community Hero Award for her work co-founding Players Against Hate.
“I can't put it into words what it's turned into,” Lynch said.
The award is given to an individual who - through the game of hockey - has positively impacted his or her community, culture or society. It's named after the first black player in the NHL. Lynch created the website playersagainsthate.org along with t-shirts, stickers and buttons all geared toward ending racism in hockey.
“It started as just, I'm a mom standing up for my son's friend,” Lynch said.
That friend is her son's teammate, Divyne Apollon. The 13-year-old was racially taunted on the ice. They play for the Metro Maple Leafs in Odenton.
“There's a need to stand up and say this is not okay,” said Lynch.
Her voice and message continue to be heard and will be in the spotlight if she wins on Wednesday night.
“We walk the red carpet with Willie O'Ree. Me, and I guess two other men (the other finalists) and my entourage of family hiding behind us.”
All the stars of the hockey world will be in attendance. Tammi tells me she is most excited to meet Ryan O'Reilly, who was just named Most Valuable Player of the Stanley Cup playoffs after his St. Louis Blues won the Stanley Cup.
A couple months ago O'Reilly's mom called Tammi to purchase several shirts and stickers for Ryan to give to a team of Native Canadians who were the recipients of racial slurs during a game.
“I have never met Ryan O'Reilly,” said Lynch. “He has no idea who I am. But I sure know how good of a heart he has.”
A good heart like Tammi's.
She said a victory on Wednesday is secondary to the mission of her work.
“Even just having the ability to be there is so amazing," Lynch said. "The two other nominees are doing amazing work with kids. What they're doing is just so important too that I think it doesn't matter who wins. We're just excited to go.”
It's a safe bet lady luck doesn't need to be on Tammi's side in Vegas. Because of her actions, the sports world has already hit the jackpot.
The NHL Awards are on Wednesday night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.