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When Willie O’Ree was born in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada on October 15, 1935, as William O’Ree, he became the first Black hockey player to play in an NHL game. On January 18, 1958, he made his NHL debut for the Boston Bruins in a game against the Montreal Canadiens at the Montreal Forum.
William O’Ree grew up in Fredericton, New Brunswick, in a large family. Rosebud and Harry had had a large family; he was the 13th kid. O’Ree’s ancestors fled slavery in the United States and made their way to Canada via the Underground Railroad. Only two Black families lived in Fredericton when O’Ree was growing up. Originally from the city’s road maintenance business, O’Ree’s father, Harry, was a civil engineer.
O’Ree began ice hockey at the age of three, and by the time he was five, he was participating in organized leagues. He became engrossed in the game right away. O’Ree skated to school and to play on the family’s backyard rink whenever the weather permitted. Willie O’Ree said in his autobiography, Hockey’s Black Pioneer: The Autobiography of Willie O’Ree, that race was never a problem at the early rinks:
He learned how to body check from his 20-year-old brother Richard, with whom O’Ree played organized hockey when he was 14 years old. When O’Ree was 15, he joined the New Brunswick Amateur Hockey Association with the Fredericton Falcons.
I’ve climbed the ranks of the Fredericton hockey system during the next three years. A member of both the York County Hockey League’s Fredericton Merchants and the New Brunswick Senior Hockey League’s Fredericton Capitals, he appeared in three games with each team in 1951–1952. I’ve played one season with the Junior Capitals before graduating to the NHL’s senior leagues for the whole 1953–54 season. he was O’Ree scored seven goals in seven games while playing for the Fredericton Capitals in the Allan Cup tournament.
Having moved to Québec at the age of 19, O’Ree played his first professional season with the Quebec Frontenacs of the Quebec Junior Hockey League in 1954–55, amassing 44 points in 43 games with 27 goals and 17 assists.
O’Ree was hit by a puck while playing for the Kitchener Canucks of the Ontario Hockey Association in the 1955–56 season, and he also shattered his nose and cheekbone. As a result, he lost around 95% of his vision in his right eye. A doctor had told him to cease playing hockey, but he returned to it two months later. O’Ree, on the other hand, was unable to inform anyone of his injury.
O’Ree was determined to play in the NHL despite the fact that he was ineligible to do so due to NHL rules prohibiting players who were blind in one eye from competing. I’ve had to play left wing with his head turned far over his right shoulder to make up for his blindness.
After a year in Ontario, O’Ree returned to play hockey in Québec with the Quebec Aces, where he finished the 1956–57 season as the team’s seventh-leading scorer (22 goals and 12 assists for 34 points). I’ve remained with the Aces for two more years, from 1957 to 1958 and from 1958 to 1959.
When the Aces were a team, they were known for their commitment to diversity and inclusion. Herb Carnegie, a Black Toronto hockey player, played for the Aces of the Quebec Senior Hockey League from 1949 until 1953. Carnegie has 198 points in four seasons with Quebec, including one alongside Jean Béliveau. He scored 77 goals and had 121 assists. Carnegie, who was inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame, was a legendary amateur hockey player who went on to play in the NHL.
Boston Bruins Biography/Wiki
I’ve shared a line with fellow Black Canadian Stan Maxwell while with the Quebec Aces. During the same time frame as O’Ree, Maxwell also played for the Aces.
The Aces and NHL’s Boston Bruins forged a partnership for the 1957–58 season. As a result of the arrangement, Aces players were eligible for immediate recall to the NHL’s Boston Bruins. On January 18, 1958, O’Ree became the first Black hockey player in the National Hockey League when he played in a game.
(That night, the Bruins prevailed 3–0 over the Montreal Canadiens.) I’ve returned to the Bruins for the 1960–61 season after appearing in just two games for them in the 1957–58 season, and he put up 14 points on the board with four goals and ten assists in 43 regular-season games. At the same time, O’Ree scored his first NHL goal against the Canadiens on January 1, 1961, making history.
Even though O’Ree was the first African-American player in the National Hockey League, nobody paid attention to him when he was in the league. A Canadian sportswriter claimed that O’Ree was “received with no emotion, no acclaim and, above all, no animosity” when he made his debut in The Boston Globe and The New York Times. Because local sports fans were already familiar with O’Ree from his time as a member of the Quebec Aces, his NHL debut likely drew minimal attention in Montreal.
He played for the Hull-Ottawa Canadiens of the Eastern Professional Hockey League for 14 years before moving on to the Western Hockey League, where he played for the L.A. Blades and San Diego Gulls, the AHL’s New Haven Nighthawks, and the PCL’s San Diego Mariners. O’Ree was able to extend his career in part because he switched to the right flank at the age of 29 in 1964–65. Coach Alf Pike made O’Ree switch positions because the Los Angeles Blades were short on talent on the right-wing. I’ve got things going right away, scoring 38 goals in his first season, which was a career-high for him.
|Team Name||Boston Bruins|
|Head Quarters||Boston, Massachusetts, United States, New England, United States|
|Area/ Stadium||TD Garden|
|Owner||owner Jeremy Jacobs|
|Head Coach||Bruce Cassidy|
|Boston Bruins Phone Number, Email ID, Address, Fanmail, Tiktok and More|
|House address (residence address)||NA|
|Phone Number||(617) 624-BEAR|
Boston Bruins Contact Details
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