Willie O’Ree First Black NHL Player Inducted Into Hall Of Fame
Willie O'Ree might not be a household name, but his moniker as "The Jackie Robinson of hockey” demands that you know who he is and what he accomplished.
According to Fox 5 San Diego, O’Ree was inducted into the NHL Hall Of Fame last night in Toronto. The 83-year-old made his professional hockey debut on Jan. 18, 1958 for the Boston Bruins.
O’Ree was inducted under the “Builders” hall of fame category and gave a 6-minute speech expressing his gratitude for the honor
“At the age of 14, I set two goals for myself — to play professional hockey and one day play in the National Hockey League,” O’Ree said at the start of his six-minute speech at the induction ceremony at the Hockey Hall of Fame. “.All I wanted was to be a hockey player. All I needed was the opportunity…
“I travel across North America introducing boys and girls to the game I love,” O’Ree said. “We also focus on life lessons hockey teaches us and most importantly setting goals. My mission is to give them the opportunity like that one I was given.”
ESPN reports that hockey icon Wayne Gretzy had glowing words for Willie and his place in the sport:
“Willie O’Ree is someone very special,” Gretzky said. “My dad, who I think is one of the nicest people who ever lived, has been highly endorsing Willie O’Ree for a long time. He didn’t break Gordie Howe’s records or Bobby Hull’s records, but what he’s done to encourage kids around North America to have a dream about playing in the NHL … sometimes, statistics aren’t everything. Sometimes, it’s about what you bring to the table to make the game better. Without question Willie O’Ree fits that description.
“He’s a guy that probably went through harder times than a lot of NHL players. For him to keep his chin up and be smiling and still talking about how great the game is, that’s the kind of person we need in our sport.”
Congratulations to Willie O’Ree and thank you for being the first, we can’t imagine what types of racism he had to deal with in 1958 while skating on the white man’s colder-than-yours ice.