Willie O’Ree changed hockey forever on Jan. 18, 1958. In the midst of America’s tumultuous fight to end Jim Crow and the birth of the civil rights movement, Willie – the descendant of escaped slaves – became the first black player to skate in a National Hockey League game. He was blind in one eye – an extraordinary secret that only his sister knew. He played 45 games in the NHL and then 22 years of minor league hockey. When he was asked to become the NHL’s diversity ambassador in 1994, he was 60 years old. He took the job, and he has never stopped.
Join us for a two part class. In part I, watch the award winning documentary Willie, which provides historical context and depth to O’Ree’s incredible journey. The film is a testament to the resilience and determination of a man empowered by his family’s legacy, and the people he has inspired along the way. In part II, meet Willie, and engage in a conversation with him through questions and answers that will highlight his perseverance through racial barriers, and his leadership in the effort to grow the game of hockey at the grassroots level for decades.
Willie O’Ree, NHL Diversity Ambassador
Moderator, Amy O’Connor, San Diego Oasis staff