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William Willie ORee







Year Inducted


Sport Ambassador

black athlete

William "Willie" O'Ree



You’ll find his National Hockey League statistics on page 292 of the latest N.H.L. player register.He shares that page with two others who also performed for the Boston Bruins – the durable Terry O’Reilly and everybody’s all-time all-star, Bobby Orr. Like O’Reilly, Willie had the tenacity and talent to fashion for himself a lengthy professional career – twenty-three years to be exact; and like Orr, he elicited admiration wherever he played because he always gave completely of himself. His career took form from Fredericton to Quebec, Kingston, Ottawa, Los Angeles, San Diego and New Haven before he retired after the 1979 season. A great deal has been made of the fact that he was the first black player to play in the National Hockey League.But a scribe caught the real significance of the man when he wrote:“He is the air of friendship and compassion.Proud and not afraid to show it, his self-confidence only serves to reveal his humility.” Enrolled in the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame, June 2, 1984

Quick Facts

  • Became the first Black player in the National Hockey League in January, 1958 when he suited up for the Boston Bruins 

  • Played parts of two seasons with the Boston Bruins (1957-58) and (1960-61) 

  • Scored four goals and added 10 assists in 45 career NHL games for Boston 

  • Played 13 seasons in the Western Hockey League for the Los Angeles Blades and the San Diego Gulls 

  • Scored 45 points in 50 games for the New Haven Nighthawks of the American Hockey League in 1972-73 

  • Led the WHL in goals (38) while playing for the LA Blades in 1964-65 

  • His baseball prowess earned him a tryout with the Milwaukee Braves in 1953 

  • Appointed Director of NHL’s Youth Development/USA Hockey Diversity Task Force in 1998 

  • Awarded the Lester Patrick Award for outstanding service to hockey in the United States in 2003


William "Willie" O'Ree

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