NHL’s First Black Player Stops in DC on National Tour

Willie O’Ree, the first black player in the NHL,
Black Hockey History Tour
The NHL’s Black Hockey History Tour, a mobile museum, is visiting 14 hockey cities and is currently stationed outside of the Canadian Embassy on Pennsylvania Ave. It’s open Monday until 7:30 p.m. and Tuesday, Jan. 13 from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
The Black Hockey History Tour bus, parked outside the Canadian Embassy, packs a rush of history and memorabilia, all honoring black players in the league.

As Willie O’Ree, the first black NHL player, walked through the bus lined with hockey pucks, skates and more, he called it a walk down memory lane.

“This was the sweater I wore when I was with the Bruins back in ’58, ’60, ’61,” O’Ree said, pointing out one of the items.

Many call O’Ree a pioneer who blazed a trail for young minority players.

“The first thing they say to me is, ‘Willie, I can’t imagine what you had to go through to make it possible for players like myself,’” he said.

Willie O’Ree, the first black player in the NHL, with one of the sweaters he wore as a member of the Boston Bruins. (WTOP/Melissa Howell)

He’s also focused on breaking down stigmas. “I think if the game becomes more welcoming, I’d be a happy man,” he added.

O’Ree also hopes to inspire young kids who don’t think hockey is for them: “These boys and girls can do anything they set their minds to. They just have to believe in themselves.”

The museum is on a tour of 14 NHL cities. It will be open to the public at the Canadian Embassy, 501 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Monday and Tuesday, from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

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