If you are a hockey fan, you probably know the story of Willie O’Ree. In 1958, he became the first black player to skate in an NHL game when his Boston Bruins faced the Montreal Canadiens.
The feat wasn’t heralded at the time and Mr. O’Ree’s NHL career lasted just 45 games, though he would go on to play professional hockey until 1979. Following his retirement, he remained far from the public eye until 1996.
At that juncture the league was being run a new regime which was focused on expanding the game into new markets and exposing the sport to different demographics. In O’Ree, the NHL saw a perfect ambassador who had first-hand experience to drive an inclusive message.
The rest of his life story is remarkable as well, from an ancestor believed to have found freedom through an early form of the Underground Railroad to his own direct path navigating the segregated southern United States as a baseball prospect… and there is much more.
We are pleased to have him join us to discuss his new book Willie – The Game Changing Story of the NHL’s First Black Player, written with Michael McKinley.