Born Willie Eldon O'Ree on October 15, 1935 in Fredericton, NB, Canada. Willie O'Ree joined the Boston Bruins and became the first Black player to play hockey in the NHL (National Hockey League), on January 18, 1958.
In 1956, while playing junior hockey in his hometown, a puck struck Willie in the face which left him blind in his right eye. He kept his impairment a secret, because he knew it would prevent him from ever playing professionally for the NHL. Willie O'Ree is a Black pioneer in the sport of ice hockey. He has been NHL's Diversity Ambassador since 1998, and is now 84 years old. He retired from playing professional hockey at the age of 43, after 21 seasons in the NHL, QHL, WHL, and the EPHL.
On June 19, 2022, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill honoring and awarding him a Congressional Gold Medal. The Boston Bruins also retired Mr. O'Ree's jersey No. 22 to commemorate the 67th anniversary of the night that he became the first Black person to play in a NHL game. We salute you!