Home / Sports / 60 Years After Integrating the N.H.L., Willie O’Ree Heads to the Hall of Fame

60 Years After Integrating the N.H.L., Willie O’Ree Heads to the Hall of Fame

Based totally in San Diego, O’Ree travels continuously. This month he has been in South Carolina, New York and Massachusetts, the place a side road hockey rink was once named in his honor.

“He is going throughout North The us like loopy,” Simmonds mentioned, “however each and every time I see him he’s were given the largest smile on the planet and it’s infectious. You’ll’t be in a foul temper whilst you’re round him.”

Whilst flooring has been received since O’Ree’s day, black gamers nonetheless face ugliness from fanatics. Simmonds was once struck with a banana throughout a 2011 exhibition sport in Canada. Final season, fanatics in Chicago taunted Washington Capitals ahead Devante Smith-Pelly as he sat within the penalty field, chanting, “basketball, basketball,” to signify they concept he was once within the fallacious recreation. Simmonds and Smith-Pelly, who’re black Canadians, mentioned they have got persisted different racial scoffs of their careers.

“I’ve long past thru my justifiable share of incidents,” Simmonds mentioned, “and I’d have concept, ‘Neatly, Mr. O’Ree most definitely concept the similar factor, that he’d be the only enduring the entire rubbish to make it higher for the more youthful youngsters that had been arising below him.’”

O’Ree mentioned he was once handiest vaguely conscious about his standing as a pioneer in 1958, and Fuhr, shielded somewhat via spending a lot of his occupation in Canada, mentioned he didn’t believe it absolutely till he retired. This technology of black gamers has embraced their roles past hockey and shaped a tight-knit crew that emphasizes the significance of previous sacrifices and a imaginative and prescient of a fairer long run.

“I wish to be remembered as one of the crucial best possible gamers that has ever performed the sport,” mentioned P.Ok. Subban, the primary black winner of the Norris Trophy for the league’s best possible defenseman. “However I additionally acknowledge who I’m, the place I come from, what I stand for and the accountability that I’ve throughout the sport of hockey.”

Finally season’s All-Big name weekend, Subban held court docket with the inside track media longer than another participant throughout the event. O’Ree approached him, and the 2 exchanged heat smiles. They later strolled off in combination, sharing a virtually familial second.

“It sort of feels like Willie’s in his 40s. Whilst you communicate to him, he’s were given such a lot power,” Subban mentioned, including: “He’s simply a really perfect guy. He continues, even lately, to place the sport of hockey and other folks forward of himself, which I believe is his largest credit score.”

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