Willie O’Ree, Ambassador of Black Hockey

25-year-old left wing Willie O’Ree, the first black player of the National Hockey League, warms up in his Boston Bruins uniform, prior to the game with the New York Rangers, at New York’s Madison Square Garden, on November 23, 1960. (AP Photo)

 

Written by C.Diva

The first black hockey player ever to break the color lines in the National Hockey League, Willie O’Ree continues to be an ambassador for black hockey players and fans across North America. In February of 2017, Black History month and in the NHL, “Hockey is for Everyone” month, I was lucky enough to see O’Ree drop the puck at a Ducks game against his old team, the Boston Bruins. This year, the NHL one again has sent O’Ree to arenas across the country to drop the puck, speak with black players, and visit inner city hockey schools to discuss diversity (and the lack thereof) within the NHL. O’Ree continues to be a vocal supporter of inclusivity and representation in the game, working to remind fans and players alike that black folks have been involved in hockey for long time and can continue to thrive in the sport. With the help of O’Ree and the programs he supports, hockey development has begun to reach neighborhoods and kids of color. Now, if we could only get the 82-year old Willie O’Ree inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and the Bruins to retire his number 22 jersey before he passes away.

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