Willie O'Ree has New Brunswick's highest honour, he has been selected to receive Canada's highest honour and now the man who broke hockey's colour barrier 50 years ago has his eye on the sport's highest honour.
After being named by Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean on Tuesday to the Order of Canada, the soft-spoken O'Ree was asked about any future goals.
"I'd like to get into the Hockey Hall of Fame. And I think if I do I think it will be through the work that I am doing now with the diversity program," O'Ree said.
O'Ree was recognized by the Governor General for his "pioneering contributions to the development of professional hockey, and for his tireless dedication to promoting the sport to minority youth in Canada and the United States."
O'Ree was 22 when he pulled on a Boston Bruins jersey on Jan. 18, 1958.
He played for Boston most extensively in the 1960-61 season, scoring his first goal on New Year's Day in 1961. He would record four goals and 10 assists in 45 games with Boston.
Those aren't the prolific scoring statistics that normally open the door to hockey's shrine. And even O'Ree acknowledged that any trip to the Hall of Fame will likely come because of his contribution to the sport over the decades since he hung up his skates.
O'Ree is the director of youth development for the National Hockey League's diversity program. In the decade since he took the job, the league says he has helped introduce 40,000 kids from diverse backgrounds to hockey.
"I only played 45 games in the NHL and breaking the colour barrier was a moment that I will never forget," he said.
But he also points to his work "over the past 10 years with the diversity program, going out and talking to these boys and girls, not only helping them with hockey skills but life skills, helping them set goals for themselves and working towards their goals and believing in yourself."
The Hockey Hall of Fame stipulates for election into the elite group as a player, an individual must have concluded a career as an active player for a minimum of three playing seasons. In the builder category, a person can be selected to the hall of fame for "coaching, managerial or executive ability, sportsmanship, character and their contribution to their organizations and to the game of hockey in general."
Gary Bettman, the NHL's commissioner, issued a statement on Tuesday that praised O'Ree's appointment to the Order of Canada and his contribution to hockey in the last half century.
'He paved the way'
"For more than 50 years, Willie has been a pioneer to the game of hockey. As a player, he paved the way for countless others to play the game of hockey," Bettman said.
"As director of youth development, he continues to provide opportunity to youth. I cannot think of a more deserving individual to receive this award and a better ambassador for Canada and the game of hockey."
In O'Ree's hometown of Fredericton, many of his friends were celebrating his latest accomplishment.
John Mazzuca grew up with O'Ree, playing shinny with the hockey legend on local rivers.
Mazzuca said O'Ree was always a gifted athlete in any sport he suited up for, but he said giving back to the community has always been a top priority for his friend. And Mazzuca said it's obvious that children are inspired by O'Ree.
"He works hard with the children and he wants to make a future for them," he said. "When he talks, they just sit there and listen, you don't hear a pin drop."