The Los Angeles Dodgers are closing in on a playoff spot while facing the San Diego Padres, but before the game on Saturday, some of the team took a moment to meet Willie O’Ree, the first Black player to play in the National Hockey League.
O’Ree, who is referred to as the Jackie Robinson of hockey, made his debut with the Boston Bruins on January 18, 1958, to break the color barrier. He has also stated that he met Robinson twice when he was young.
O’Ree now works as the NHL’s Diversity Ambassador, where he travels across the U.S. and Canada to schools and hockey programs to promote messages of inclusion, dedication, and confidence.
The NHL Hall of Famer made it out to Petco Park on Saturday and posed for a photo with Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, Mookie Betts and Justin Turner while bench coach Bob Geren made sure to get O’Ree a new hat.
That’s Willie O’Ree, 86, the first Black NHL player, on far right. #Dodgers Dave Roberts and Justin Turner were thrilled to meet him pregame Saturday. “You’re the Jackie Robinson of hockey!” Roberts exclaimed. pic.twitter.com/d7dhcyBRha
— Scott Miller (@ScottMillerBbl) September 11, 2022
— Michael J. Duarte (@michaeljduarte) September 10, 2022
— Bernie Wilson (@berniewilson) September 11, 2022
O’Ree only spent parts of two seasons in the NHL, scoring four goals and 10 assists across 45 games as a winger, but he has made a huge impact on the game.
While playing, O’Ree was subjected to racist remarks and threats from players and fans, but he rose above the hate, saying it was their problem and not his if they couldn’t accept him as a player. NHL players are now required to enroll in a preseason diversity training seminar, and racially based verbal abuse is punished through suspensions and fines.
After O’Ree played in the NHL, there were no other Black players until Mike Marson was drafted by the Washington Capitals in 1974.
At the Minor League level, O’Ree won two scoring titles in the Western Hockey League (WHL) while scoring 30 or more goals 4 times, with a high of 38. He spent the majority of his WHL career playing with the Los Angeles Blades and San Diego Gulls, with the latter team retiring his number.
Dodgers visited Jackie Robinson Museum
While the Dodgers were facing the New York Mets at Citi Field last month, Betts, Will Smith, David Price, and Alex Vesia were among those from the team who went to visit the Jackie Robinson Museum in New York City.
In addition to the players, Roberts and members of the coaching staff also attended. The Dodgers were given an early look at the museum that did not officially open to the public until Sept. 5.
Earlier in the year, a contingent from the team went to visit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum before they faced the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium.
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