Willie O'Ree quietly made NHL history at the Montreal Forum on January 18, 1958, when he became the first black player to take to the ice. In the dressing room before the game, his Boston Bruins teammates told him not to worry. If any one of the Montreal players said anything to him, they'd have his back.
There was a round of applause when O'Ree stepped onto the ice, and newspapers ran the story. The colour barrier in the NHL had been broken, yet it would be sixteen years before the next black player, Mike Marson (also a Canadian), was drafted. Four decades later, the NHL pulled O'Ree out of retirement to honour his achievement and make him an ambassador for the NHL's "Hockey is for Everyone" program to encourage kids from all backgrounds to play hockey.
This new book by Nicole Mortillaro traces the early life of O'Ree in Fredericton, New Brunswick, his journey to the NHL, highlights from his hockey career, and his work encouraging diversity in the NHL.
[Fry reading level - 4.9
NICOLE MORTILLARO is the author of several hockey books for children, including the Recordbooks Something to Prove and Jarome Iginla. She lives in Richmond Hill, Ontario.
“[Mortillaro's touch is light and energetic, so that O?Ree's life story advances quickly... I would highly recommend this book for literacy collections, classroom libraries, and general libraries. It could also make a nice gift for young hockey fans” Rated E, excellent, enduring, everyone should see it!
“[Mortillaro does paint clear pictures of the sport's history and significance, especially in Canada, as well as the racial hostility that O?Ree braved through much of his playing career.”
Featured as a "Book of Interest" in The Seniors' Advocate
"Willie O'Ree is an inspiring biography that tells how a brave young man was determined to realize his dream... If you are studying human rights or slavery this is a great account to share with your children. And if you have a child that is already interested in hockey this would be a wonderful tool to use to share history with them."
"Willie O'Ree is well-researched. [Mortillaro has made Willie O'Ree's story an engrossing one. Her writing style is easy to read and suitable for young readers." Highly Recommended.
"This biography stands on its own as a well written life story of a man who had his fifteen minutes of fame but supplements the Willie O'Ree story with a running anecdote of racism in society and modern sports, physical impairment, the history of the development of the NHL, the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 60s. Willie O'Ree is a gem to be discovered."