12 Facts About Willie O'Ree


Willie O'Ree is referred to as the "Jackie Robinson of ice hockey" for breaking the black colour barrier in the National Hockey League, and has stated publicly that he had met Jackie Robinson when he was younger.

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Willie O'Ree was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in November 2018.

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Midway through his second minor-league season with the Quebec Aces, Willie O'Ree was called up to the Boston Bruins of the NHL to replace Leo Labine, who was unable to play due to an illness.

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Two years earlier, Willie O'Ree had been blinded when he was hit in his right eye by an errant puck; which would have precluded him from playing in the NHL if the Bruins had known.

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Willie O'Ree played two games that year, with centre man Don McKenney and right wing Jerry Toppazzini as his line mates.

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Willie O'Ree responded by hitting Nesterenko over the head with his stick, which Willie O'Ree claims "almost created a riot".

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Willie O'Ree scored 4 goals and 10 assists in his NHL career, all in 1961.

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Willie O'Ree continued to play in the minors until the age of 43.

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Since 1998, Willie O'Ree has been the NHL's Diversity Ambassador, travelling across North America to schools and hockey programs to promote messages of inclusion, dedication, and confidence.

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Willie O'Ree was inducted into the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame in 1984.

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In 1998, Willie O'Ree was working at the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego, California when the National Hockey League approached him to be the director of youth development for its diversity task force.

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In 2008, Willie O'Ree was inducted by the San Diego Hall of Champions into the Breitbard Hall of Fame honouring San Diego's finest athletes both on and off the playing surface.

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