The Barack Obama of the NHL

You don’t know me but I know people. Even better, I know people who know people. Which is why you may not have heard, in your world of mediocrity, that Barack Obama became the first African-American President of the United States. I know, you’re in shock. I’ll give you a minute to process this recently unknown information… I’ll wait. Please don’t misinterpret my sarcastic tone. I’m am thrilled of Barack’s victory. I have all the faith in the world that this is the beginning of something truly extraordinary. I am, however, a smart enough woman to leave the political commentary to the professionals. The women of The View. 

Tuesday night’s media frenzy got me thinking. Why is there no documentation of a world wide celebration when Willie O’Ree became the NHL’s first black player? Sure he has a Wikipedia page, but who doesn’t these days? I figure if there is no statute of limitations for murder why should there be for something fun, like a celebration of hockey?!

It was a cold day, January 18, 1958 when New Brunswick native Willie O’Ree took the ice for his first of two games with the Boston Bruins. Despite being legally blind in one eye and facing relentless scrutiny and racism, O’Ree “just wanted to be a hockey player.”

In 1961 O’Ree returned to the NHL for 43 games in which he scored four goals and ten assists. After that, Willie left the NHL never to return. He played out his hockey career in the Western Hockey League.

After O’Ree there wouldn’t be another black NHL player for over a decade when, in 1974, Mike Marson (a fellow Canadian) wore the jersey for the Washington Capitals.

History is made every day, by everyday people. I think in this time of change and new beginnings it’s important to remember the trailblazers of the past whilst celebrating the heroes of today.

—Amber McCormick is the higher-pitched voice of The Nation. She is still in shock that she wrote an entire article without mentioning Penner’s dreamy eyes or Souray’s flowing locks. Oops.

  • doritogrande

    "You don’t know me but I know people. Even better, I know people who know people. Which is why you may not have heard, in your world of mediocrity, that Barack Obama became the first African-American President of the United States."

    President Elect, you mean. Bush is still in charge for another couple of months. Americans can still do something to change this situation. They've done it before, no?

  • There was a little buzz about this past January on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of O'Ree's feat. I saw a couple of interviews and Willie came across as the salt o' the earth, a very likable old fellow without the slightest bit of a swelled head despite his rather significant claim to fame.

    Don't know that he belongs in the Hall per se, but there should be a "pioneers section" to celebrate accomplishments like his. Maybe there is, I dunno, I've never been in the Hall.