10 Things to know about Willie O’Ree

Willie O'Ree became the first Black hockey player to play in the NHL.

Here are ten facts to help you get to know Willie O'Ree.

But before we do so, hmm, I wonder what he would think of this funny gift, Toilet Hockey?

Toilet Hockey Game

1. Willie O’Ree was born on October 15, 1935, in Fredericton, New Brunswick.

2. Willie started skating at the age of three.

3. Willie received the call to join the Boston Bruins on January 18, 1958. He became the first black player to play in the NHL.

4. Meeting the renowned baseball hero Jackie Robinson at the age of 14 during a Brooklyn Dodgers' game with his youth baseball team had a significant impact on young Willie.

5. A grassroots movement originating in his hometown of Fredericton, NB, finally sparked Willie’s nomination and induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder of the game in 2018.

6. In 1956, while playing junior hockey, a puck struck Willie in the face, resulting in blindness in his right eye. Keeping this impairment a secret was crucial for his eventual journey to the NHL.

7. Willie was honoured with the Order of New Brunswick in 2005 and later, in 2010, received the Order of Canada.

8. Willie attributes his entry into the NHL to his hockey role models Herb and Ossie Carnegie, as well as Manny MacIntyre, who paved the way for him. Regrettably, the trio of skilled Black players did not reach the NHL.

9. Willie retired from his professional hockey career at the age of 43, having played across 21 seasons with stints in the NHL, QHL (Quebec Hockey League), WHL (Western Hockey League), and EPHL (Eastern Professional Hockey League).

10. Since 1998, Willie has served as the NHL's Diversity Ambassador. Even at the age of 84, he remains actively engaged, visiting children throughout North America to convey the message that the sport he holds dear is inclusive for everyone. 

Willie O'Ree


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