Willie O’Ree has taken his place among hockey’s immortals.
The former Boston Bruins player was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday night, joining current NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, NHL legends Martin Brodeur and Martin St. Louis, Canadian women’s hockey legend Jayna Hefford and Russian icon Alexander Yakushev in the class of 2018.
The Hall of Fame enshrined O’Ree, who broke the NHL’s color barrier in January 1958, as a builder of the sport and an ambassador. After making his NHL debut for the Bruins, O’Ree went on to play professional hockey for 21 years. He has served as a diversity ambassador for the NHL since 1998.
He discussed his efforts to promote diversity and inclusion in hockey during his induction speech.
“True strength comes from diversity and inclusion,” O’Ree said. “It makes kids better, families better, it makes the game better. We know that because of Mike Marson, Jarome Iginla, Grant Fuhr, and so many others who have also broken barriers.
“Tonight, I am here to tell you we are not done. Because the work is not done. We have barriers to break and knock down, opportunities to give. I leave this with you; when you return to your communities, take a look around. Find a young boy or girl who needs the opportunity to play hockey and give it to them. You never know, they may make history.”
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images