Who Is Willie O'Ree?


Quick Answer

Will O'Ree, born in Canada in 1935, is a former professional ice hockey player. He was the first black player in the NHL and entered the league at age 23. He retired in 1979 after almost 30 years on the ice.

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Full Answer

After a brief stint in the NHL as a right winger with the Boston Bruins, which ended due to overbearing racism among the fans and other players, O'Ree took to mostly playing in the minor leagues. He played with minor teams such as the Ottawa-Hull Canadians, Los Angeles Blades and the San Diego Gulls. His final team was the San Diego Hawks in the 1978-1979 season. O'Ree won many awards for his professional hockey career, including the Lester Patrick Award in 2000 and the Order of the New Brunswick in 2005.

O'Ree was born in New Brunswick on Oct. 15, 1935, and was known for his speed and checking abilities, according to the Hockey Hall of Fame. O'Ree took to skating when he was three years old and began playing organized hockey when he was five. O'Ree is often referred to as the "Jackie Robinson of ice hockey," due to his breaking of the color barrier in ice hockey. He scored four goals in his NHL career.

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