On January 18, 1958 Fredericton, NB’s Willie O’Ree stepped onto the ice
at the Montreal Forum and became the first black to play in the NHL. As
a member of the Boston Bruins being black wasn’t the only challenge for
Willie, he also was blind in his right eye. A fact he kept hidden from
management and his fellow players. Willie played over 1,200 games as a
professional in the NHL and Western Hockey League.
Willie presently works with the NHL/USA Diversity Task Force and in
Youth Development. He has also served as a role model for many present
day NHLers such as Jarome Iginla and Anson Carter.
Willie has been recognized in his adopted hometown of San Diego and just
recently received a standing ovation at an NHL game in St Louis as part
of Diversity Week. He also was asked to carry the Olympic Torch as part
of the Salt Lake City Olympic Games.
Despite being recognized elsewhere the City of Fredericton, New
Brunswick has done next to nothing to honor Willie. The present Mayor of
Fredericton, Les Hull, when a Provincial Cabinet Minister was involved
in having Willie inducted into the New Brunswick Hall of Fame – this
brings with it an automatic listing on the Fredericton Wall of Fame.
There are a number of us who feel that the City of Fredericton has not
done enough for Willie O’Ree and are suggesting that a Statue, Bust,
Street Name or the old York Arena (where many old timers got their
start) be renamed in his honor. It has also been suggested that a local
fredericton artist be commissioned to do the statue.
If you think Willie should receive more visible recognition by the City
of Fredericton the Mayor is Les Hull, his e-mail address is: