Sunday, February 12, 2012

Saluting Willie O'Ree: The NHL's First Black Player

image via sportsillustrated.com
In honour of Black History Month, P&B would like to pay special tribute to Canada's own Willie O'Ree, known as the "Jackie Robinson of Hockey."

A native of Fredricton, New Brunswick, O'Ree is the first black player to play in the National Hockey League, making his debut with the Boston Bruins on January 18, 1958 in a game against the Montreal Canadiens.

He went on to play another four games at the NHL level that season, but in 1961, O'Ree played 43 games with the Bruins, tallying 4 goals and 10 assists for his NHL career.

Currently Mr. O'Ree serves as the Director of the National Hockey League's Diversity Task Force.

I had a chance to introduce myself to him here in Toronto a few years back, and as a Black Canadian kid who grew up idolizing NHL stars, it was a particularly special moment for me to meet a pioneer of the sport.

So hats off to Willie O'Ree.....thank you for all you've done to help diversify the game of hockey, and thanks for being such an important figure in Canadian Black History.



-Turnbull

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