60 Years After Integrating the N.H.L., Willie O’Ree Heads to the Hall of Fame

60 Years After Integrating the N.H.L., Willie O’Ree Heads to the Hall of Fame

60 Years After Integrating the N.H.L., Willie O’Ree Heads to the Hall of Fame

Based in San Diego, O’Ree travels repeatedly. This month he has been in South Carolina, New York and Massachusetts, the place a boulevard hockey rink was once named in his honor.

“He goes all around North America like crazy,” Simmonds stated, “but every time I see him he’s got the biggest smile in the world and it’s infectious. You can’t be in a bad mood when you’re around him.”

While flooring has been won since O’Ree’s day, black avid gamers nonetheless face ugliness from lovers. Simmonds was once struck with a banana all through a 2011 exhibition sport in Canada. Last season, lovers in Chicago taunted Washington Capitals ahead Devante Smith-Pelly as he sat in the penalty field, chanting, “basketball, basketball,” to point out they idea he was once in the fallacious recreation. Simmonds and Smith-Pelly, who’re black Canadians, stated they have got persisted different racial scoffs of their careers.

“I’ve gone through my fair share of incidents,” Simmonds stated, “and I would have thought, ‘Well, Mr. O’Ree probably thought the same thing, that he’d be the one enduring all the garbage to make it better for the younger kids that were coming up under him.’”

O’Ree stated he was once most effective vaguely conscious of his standing as a pioneer in 1958, and Fuhr, shielded fairly through spending a lot of his occupation in Canada, stated he didn’t believe it totally till he retired. This era of black avid gamers has embraced their roles past hockey and shaped a tight-knit staff that emphasizes the significance of previous sacrifices and a imaginative and prescient of a fairer long term.

“I want to be remembered as one of the best players that has ever played the game,” stated P. Okay. Subban, the first black winner of the Norris Trophy for the league’s absolute best defenseman. “But I also recognize who I am, where I come from, what I stand for and the responsibility that I have within the game of hockey.”

At final season’s All-Star weekend, Subban held court docket with the information media longer than some other participant all through the match. O’Ree approached him, and the two exchanged heat smiles. They later strolled off in combination, sharing a virtually familial second.

“It seems like Willie’s in his 40s. When you talk to him, he’s got so much energy,” Subban stated, including: “He’s just a great man. He continues, even today, to put the game of hockey and people ahead of himself, which I think is his biggest credit.”


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