On January 18, 1958, hockey player Willie O’Ree of the Boston Bruins takes to the ice for a game against the Montreal Canadiens, becoming the first black to play in the National Hockey League (NHL).
Born in 1935 in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, O’Ree was the son of a civil engineer, in one of Fredericton’s only two black families. He began skating at the age of three and joined a nearby hockey league when he was only five. During five years playing with his older brother on teams in Fredericton, O’Ree became known as one of the best players in New Brunswick. After one season with the Quebec Frontenacs of the Quebec Junior Hockey League, he joined the Kitchener Canucks of the Ontario Hockey Association Junior “A” Hockey League, setting a career-high mark of 30 goals during the 1955-56 season. That year, a puck struck O’Ree in the right eye during a game, robbing him of 95 percent of the vision in that eye.
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