Willie was born in Fredericton, New Brunswick in 1935. He started to play hockey at the age of 5. Willie was considered to be the “Jackie Robinson of Hockey” for being the first Black Hockey player in the NHL. O’Ree was noticed by the Boston Bruins and first played with the Bruins for 2 games in 1958 and from 1960-61 playing full season. He was inducted into the NB Sports Hall of Fame in 1984. Willie was also a heck of a baseball player. In 1956 he was invited to the Milwaukee Braves Minor league facility in Waycross Georgia. Willie stated he preferred hockey as his sport but played baseball in the summer just to keep his legs in shape and reflexes sharp. Willie retired in 1979. The most fitting tribute to Willie’s career came when the NHL created an all-star game for young minority hockey players , which was named in Willie’s honor. The Willie O’Ree All-Star Game is held every year at the World Junior Championships. In January 2008 an arena was built on Fredericton’s North side and it was named The W
illie O’Ree Place. This facility is a state of the art multi-purpose facility.
(Photo courtesy of The New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame)