Step aside Trevor Hoffman, San Diego just added another Hall of Famer to its lineup, Willie O’Ree — the first black hockey player in the history of the NHL. Yup, sixty years after breaking the NHL’s color barrier, O’Ree was finally selected for induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Tuesday.
“I am honoured to be recognized” the 82-year-old hockey legend said in a release.
In 1958, Willie O’Ree played just two games with the Boston Bruins, albeit brief, he opened the door for other players of various races to dream about NHL careers. That being said, the majority of his 21-year hockey career was in the Western Hockey League suiting up (sans helmet) for the Los Angeles Blades and the San Diego Gulls. While in San Diego in the 1960s and 70s, O’Ree played over 400 games with 150 goals and 160 assists.
While working for a San Diego hotel in 1998, the NHL hired Willie O’Ree as the Director of Youth Development for its diversity task force. The NHL/USA Hockey Diversity Task Force is a non-profit program that encourages minority youngsters to play hockey. The results are palpable reports the Hockey Hall of Fame. Additionally, NHL players are now required to enroll in a pre-season diversity training seminar, and race-based verbal abuse is punished through suspensions and fines.
The induction ceremony is scheduled for Nov. 12 at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
A HUGE CONGRATULATIONS to our good friend Willie O'Ree on being elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame!! 👏🎉 pic.twitter.com/3PdCz2NdiA
— San Diego Gulls (@SDGullsAHL) June 26, 2018