On Monday evening in Toronto, Willie O’Ree, the first Black professional hockey player in the NHL, was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Surrounded by friends, family and fans, O’Ree accepted his induction with the style and grace he is known for.
Not only was O’Ree present, but many of the Black fans and players he inspired were also in attendance. Bill Douglas, from Color of Hockey Blog tweeted out images from the very special weekend; Anson Carter, former Canadian ice hockey player and current NBC hockey analyst interviewed O’Ree (along with Angela James and Grant Fuhr); women’s hockey expert Erica Ayala rubbed shoulders with Soul on Ice producer Kwame Mason, Bernice Carnegie (Daughter of Herb Carnegie) and NHL VP Kim Davis; Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Ayo Adeniye even got the chance to walk the red carpet with his longtime idol. What I’m saying is, it was a night for Black excellence at the Hockey Hall of Fame.
As a Black girl hockey fan, I am so pleased to see Mr. O’Ree inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a Builder of the Game. He is one of only three Black players currently hailed in those walls. Still, as O’Ree said in his acceptance speech, it is important to continue to grow the game within minority and marginalized communities. Hockey has so much to teach young folks–about teamwork, perseverance, and honor. With O’Ree’s contributions and continuous work to spread the good news about hockey to these communities, the game of hockey has seen growth, diversity and a shift toward actually becoming a game for everyone. Thank you, Mr. O’Ree, for all you’ve done for the sport.