On This Date, 59 Years Ago, Willie O’Ree Broke the Color Barrier From Ice Hockey in Harlem

Describing Willie O’Ree’s NHL debut as a Boston Bruin against the Candiens, Dave Stubbs writes “The native of Fredericton, New Brunswick, had arrived in Montreal from Quebec on an emergency call-up, carrying a suitcase and the baggage of racial intolerance he had been lugging through the minor pros.”

While discussing the ways in which he was targeted by rival NHL fans and players, O’Ree says he made a decision: “If I’m going to leave the league, it’s going to be because I don’t have the skills and ability to play anymore and not because someone is trying to run me out.  If I have to fight [to continue playing], I’m going to fight.”

He did just that.  While battling harassment, resistance and partial blindness, O’Ree opened the door for future generations of hopeful young players and laid the foundation for programs like Ice Hockey in Harlem.

On February 8th, 2017, support Ice Hockey in Harlem and help Ice Hockey in Harlem celebrate this brave pioneer: Purchase your tickets here.

Please take a moment to check out this This NHL.com article with videos, as we celebrate O’Ree on this momentous day in history.

For more information about the event and about sponsorship opportunities, please email info@icehockeyinharlem.org

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