William Eldon O'Ree was born October 15, 1935 in Fredericton, New Brunswick. He is the son of a civil engineer and a member of one of the two black families in his hometown. Willie is one of thirteen children. His brother Richard played and this is what lead Willie to his hockey career and legacy. Willie started playing hockey at age 3 and joined his first league at age 5. He currently married with two children and lives in California. On January 18, 1958 he made his hockey debut for the Boston Bruins and became the first African American player in the National Hockey League. He played left wing for the Boston Bruins. He played 2 games that season. He was called up again in 1961, played 43 games scored 4 goals and 10 assists in his NHL career all in 1961 .Willie O’ree was 95% blind in his right eye. A fact he hid from the NHL which would have prevented him from playing . After O'Ree's playing career was over, in 1998, he became the Director of Youth Development for the NHL/USA Hockey Diversity Task Force, a non-profit program for minority youth that encourages them to learn and play hockey. O'Ree was inducted into the New Brunswick sports hall of fame in 1984. Willie O'Ree is the NHL director of youth development and hockey ambassador for NHL diversity since 1988 .the 2007-2008 NHL seasons will mark the 50th anniversary of O'Ree NHL debut with Boston Bruins.
A SPORTS WRITER OF THE DAY NOTED IN A JANUARY 20,1958,ARTICLE THAT DIDN’T EVEN WARRANT A BYLINE.
“it was just about a decade before that professional baseball had been rocked with the color barrier being erased by Jackie Robinson. But O’Ree’s NHL milestone, the writer observed: He was greeted with no emotion, no applause and above all no animosity”
QUOTE FROM O’REE
Learning to play hockey as a two-year old and using blades to make his way to school on icy shoulders of roads in Fredericton. An NBA kid could have been born purple with a...