Saturday, April 1, 2023

65 years ago, Willie O’Ree made NHL history

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He was blind in one eye

65 years ago, Willie O’Ree made NHL history

On January 18, 1958, a black man was used in the NHL for the first time. But even 65 years after Willie O’Ree, ice hockey, in contrast to the other major sports in North America, is still predominantly white.

Published: 18 minutes ago


On January 28, 1958, Willie O’Ree became the first black man to play in the NHL.


Stephen RothDeputy Head of Ice Hockey

As a boy, Willie O’Ree (87) had a dream: to play in the NHL one day, even though no black man had managed to do so at the time. But his hopes seemed dashed when he was 20 years old when a puck shattered the retina of his right eye.

In order not to jeopardize his career, the striker hid that he is blind in one eye. He said to himself, “Forget what you can’t see and focus on what you can see.” And on January 18, 1958, his dream came true: he was on the ice with the Boston Bruins in Montréal. He was the first black man in the NHL. “I had no idea I had broken the racial barrier until I read the paper the next morning.”

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