As the first black hockey player in the NHL, Willie O’Ree is a legendary figure with a story to tell. And he did just that on Monday during a visit to Star View Elementary School in the Ocean View School District.
O’Ree was joined by Anaheim Ducks announcer Steve Carroll at an assembly for fourth- and fifth-graders that was organized through the Ducks’ S.C.O.R.E. program, which aims to make a positive impact for youth in local schools and hockey communities. The two were also promoting the National Hockey League’s Hockey Is for Everyone initiative.
Born in Fredericton, New Brunswick in eastern Canada, O’Ree played his first NHL game with the Boston Bruins on Jan. 18, 1958. Though he skated in only two games that year, he returned in 1961, netting 4 goals and dishing out 10 assists.
During Monday’s assembly, students at the Midway City campus learned about O’Ree’s childhood, his barrier-breaking career, his enduring legacy and his commitment to growing the sport through the Hockey Is for Everyone initiative. They also got a lesson on California hockey history — and the chance to slap-shot a few questions toward the man often referred to as “the Jackie Robinson of ice hockey.”