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First black player in NHL awarded top honor

First black player in NHL awarded top honor

The first black player to compete in the National Hockey League received the country's most prestigious award Tuesday.
Willie O'Ree, 73, who was a player for the Boston Bruins, was awarded the Order of Canada, the country's highest honor recognizing a lifetime of outstanding achievement.
Canadian singer Celine Dion was among the 60 others who were bestowed the honor.
O'Ree was playing was playing minor league hockey with the Quebec Aces when the Boston Bruins called him to play for their team in 1958.
O'Ree was 95 percent blind in his right eye as a result of being hit by an errant puck two years earlier, which normally would have precluded him from playing in the National Hockey League. However, O'Ree managed to keep it secret, and made his NHL debut with the Bruins in 1958, against the Montreal Canadiens.
In honor of Jackie Robinson, the first black major-league baseball player, O'Ree has been referred to as the "Jackie Robinson of ice hockey".
O'Ree is now the director of youth development for the NHL's diversity program, which provides access to the sport for children throughout North America.
"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," said Governor General Michaelle Jean.


Updated : 2021-03-09 00:25 GMT+08:00