William Eldon ‘Willie’ O’Ree

William Eldon ‘Willie’ O’Ree

While Willie O’Ree career was short, it was historic. Willie became the first black player in NHL history on January 18, 1958, when he debuted with the Bruins in a 3-0 win over Montreal in the Forum. Willie was a skater, but only managed 45 games in the NHL, although he played professional hockey until 1971, mostly in San Deigo, California, where upon his retirement he became director of Parks with the City of San Deigo.

Another strike against Willie was an accident playing hockey as a junior in Kingston had left him blind in one eye. Willie played professionally in the Quebec Senior League, with another, Fredericton native, Manny McIntrye. Manny along with brothers Herb and Ossie Carnegie of Toronto, formed what is believed to be the only All-Black line in Professional hockey.