Willie O'Ree

Willie O’Ree (October 15, 1935 -) is a Canadian-born former professional ice hockey player, best known for being the first African-American player to compete in the National Hockey League (NHL). He played as a winger for the Boston Bruins. He is often referred to as the "Jackie Robinson of ice hockey" due to the fact that he broke the league’s color barrier when he made his historical NHL debut with the Bruins on January 18, 1958, against the Montreal Canadiens. He played in just two games that season – with centerman Don McKenney and right wing Jerry Toppazzini as his line mates – but came back in 1961 to play 43 games for Boston, in which he scored four goals and recorded 10 assists. In the minor leagues, O'Ree won two scoring titles in the Western Hockey League (WHL) between 1961 and 1974, scoring thirty or more goals four times, with a high of 38 in both the 1964–65 and 1968–69 campaigns. He also played 50 games for the American Hockey League's New Haven Nighthawks in 1972–73. Most of O'Ree’s playing time was spent with either the WHL's Los Angeles Blades or the San Diego Gulls, the latter team retired his number, which now hangs from the rafters inside the Pechanga Arena (formerly the San Diego Sports Arena). O'Ree continued to play in the minors until the age of 43. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto in November 2018.