[an error occurred while processing this directive] George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight | Willie O’Ree


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Guest Willie O’Ree

Willie O'Ree's career in the NHL didn't last long, but his legacy lives on to this day.

Simply put, Willie was the Jackie Robinson of hockey. Robinson, of course, broke the colour barrier in major league baseball. Just over ten years later, on January 18th, 1958, Willie became the first black player in the NHL.

He was called up to the Boston Bruins, ended up playing forty-five games in all, and the incredible thing is - Willie did it all, without being able to see out of his right eye.

Years earlier in junior, he was hit with a puck, and lost ninety-five per cent of his vision. But Willie kept that a secret. Of course, along the way, he faced racism - and it took sixteen more years before another black player made the NHL. But because of Willie, the barrier was broken.

These days, he's the director of youth development for the NHL's diversity program, and was recently named to the Order of Canada.

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