Willie: The Game Changing Story of The NHL’s First Black Player (2020)

An inspiring memoir that shows that anyone can achieve their dreams if they are willing to fight for them. In 1958, Willie O’Ree was a lot like any other player toiling in the minors, waiting for his chance to play in the best hockey league in the world. He’d grown up playing in small towns, working his way up the complicated hierarchy of junior and minor leagues, losing teeth and dropping the gloves along the way. He was good. Good enough to have been signed by the Boston Bruins, good enough to have been invited to training camp twice. In a six-team league, that meant he was one of the best players in the world. Just not quite good enough to play in the NHL. Until January 18 of that year. The call came, and Willie O’Ree was told he’d be suiting up against the Montreal Canadians. The next morning, he opened the paper to see if his name showed up in the box score. Instead, he found it on the front page, in the headline. Without even realizing it, Willie O’Ree had broken hockey’s colour barrier, just as his hero, Jackie Robinson, had done for baseball. 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.