81 year old year old Willie Eldon O’Ree, OC, ONB is a Canadian former professional ice hockey player, known best for being the 1st black player in the National Hockey League. O’Ree played as a winger for the Boston Bruins.
O’Ree is referred to as the “Jackie Robinson of ice hockey” due to breaking the black colour barrier in the sport, and has stated publicly that he had met Jackie Robinson twice in his own younger years.
HIS IMPACT ON HOCKEY: After O’Ree’s stint in the NHL, there were no other black player in the NHL until another Canadian player, Mike Marson, was drafted by the Washington Capitals in 1974.
There were 17 black players in the NHL as of the mid-2000s, the most prominent being Canadian and current Colorado Avalanche forward, Jarome Iginla. Art Dorrington was the 1st black player to sign an NHL contract, in 1950 with the New York Rangers organization, but never played beyond the minor league level.
NHL players are now required to enroll in a diversity training seminar before each season, and racially based verbal abuse is punished through suspensions and fines.
While O’Ree was the 1st black player in the NHL, Larry Kwong, a Canadian of Chinese descent, 1st broke racial barriers when he played one game for the New York Rangers against the Montreal Canadiens on March 13, 1948.
Read about this Mr. O’Ree’s legacy at: Daily Black History Facts