Willie O’Ree Opened Doors for Black Hockey Players 52 Years Ago


The Boston Bruins have a storied history. Most New Englanders know about the bitterly fierce games against the Canadiens, about Bobby Orr, Cam Neely and even Johnny Bucyk.

What many fans don't know is that the first black hockey player in NHL history played for the Bruins.

Willie O'Ree, a native of New Brunswick, didn't enjoy the major league success that Jackie Robinson did in baseball, mostly due to only having the use of one eye, but it didn?t stop him from achieving his dream to play professional hockey in a league that didn't want him.

It was this injury that limited O'Ree to just two seasons in the NHL, as he played in the minors the rest of his career. Regardless, O'Ree broke the race barrier during an racially charged time period, and in doing so paved the way for other black hockey players, including current stars like Jarome Iginla, Dustin Byfuglien and young star P.K. Subban.

The NHL has surely benefited from bridging the race gap, allowing old racist tendencies to be thrown away, allowing a new, more diverse league to develop.

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