50th anniversary for trailblazing O’Ree

When he played for the Boston Bruins against the Canadiens in Montreal on Jan. 18,
1958, Willie O’Ree became the first black person to play in the National Hockey League. O’Ree played on a line with Don McKenney and Jerry Toppazzini and helped the Bruins defeat the mighty Canadiens, 3-0.

Fifty years later, O’Ree is still involved in hockey as the Director of Youth Development for the NHL’s Diversity program. In the past 10 years, he has helped introduce more than 40,000 boys and girls of diverse backgrounds to hockey while stressing the importance of essential life skills, education and the core values of hockey: commitment, perseverance and teamwork.

The National Hockey League has prepared a terrific look at the trailblazing O’Ree and his significant contribution to the game. Their entire package appears below.

A study of the legend of Willie O’Ree:



  1. Peter Young says:

    Absolutely right about the Bruins’ strength at that time, although the rivalry had not yet reached the intensity it had 20 years later in the late Seventies.

    The season before, 1956-57, the Bruins had come close to putting the Canadiens in third place in the six-team league, and they were the reason the Canadiens did not repeat as league champions (Prince of Wales Trophy winners). And in both 1957 and 1958 the Bruins reached the Stanley Cup finals.

    They had some fine players in the Fifties–Fleming Mackell, Real Chevrefil and Leo Labine were the ones who most stick in my mind for their talent, desire and commitment, Don McKenney for his skill. Plus they had players like Fernie Flaman, Leo Boivin, Allan Stanley and Doug Mohns on defense. And then in the late Fifties three players emerged into stardom as the high-scoring Uke line, Vic Stasiuk and Johnny Bucyk from the Red Wings and Bronco Horvath from the Rangers. Horvath actually played one game for the Canadiens in 1956-57, between stints in New York.

    The Bruins had no real superstars. What they did have, though, was great depth in very good players. In the season of Willie O’Ree’s debut, 1957-58, they had three centres who scored at least 20 goals, Horvath with 30, McKenney with 28 and Mackell with 20.

  2. Axxelein says:

    The Bruins were also hurting that night. Defensive stalwart Bob Armstrong, firebrand Leo Labine & offensive power Real Chevrefils were missing from action..Buddy Boone had also been called up..Coach Schmidt had moved Fleming Mackell from his regular line…Enter Willie O’Ree.. Veteran netminder Harry Lumley had just replaced the injured Don Simmons & was posting a stellar shutout…The Bruins of the late 1950s were a powerhouse & the intense rivalry with Les Canadiens was a constant, ongoing affair of epic proportions…Witness that night’s score..”Plus ca change”…Cheers!!

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