By: Willie O'Ree (CA), Michael McKinley (CA)
An inspiring memoir that shows that anyone can achieve their dreams if they are willing to fight for them.
On January 18, 1958 Willie O'Ree was finally called up to the NHL after years of toiling in the minors, joining the Boston Bruins. And when he stepped out onto the ice against the Montreal Canadiens, not only did he fulfil the childhood dream he shared with so many other Canadian kids, he did something that had never been done before: He broke hockey's colour barrier--just as his hero, Jackie Robinson, had done for baseball.
In that pioneering first NHL game, O'Ree proved that no one could stop him from being a hockey player. But he soon learned that he could never be just a hockey player. He would always be a Black player, with all that entails. There were ugly name-calling and stick-swinging incidents, and nights when the Bruins had to be escorted to their bus by the police.
But O'Ree never backed down. When he retired in 1979, he had played hundreds of games as a pro, and scored hundreds of goals, his boyhood dreams more than accomplished.
In 2018, O'Ree was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in recognition not only of that legacy, but of the way he has built on it in the decades since. He has been, for twenty years now, an NHL Executive and has helped the NHL Diversity program expose more than 40,000 boys and girls of diverse backgrounds to unique hockey experiences.
Inspiring, frank, and shot through with the kind of understated courage and decency required to change the world, Willie is a story for anyone willing to persevere for a dream.