Willie Eldon O’Ree – Breaking the colour barrier

There are no obstacles in the path of greatness

Black history month is very dear to me. I am considered South Asian but I hold a soft spot for Africa as it was the birthplace of my parents.  Alex Haley’s book called “Roots” will forever be placed on the top of my bookshelf as one of the greatest literary pieces of my lifetime.

As a child I read about Martin Luther King Jr. and other famous leaders of the civil rights movement. Adorned on my wall was an illustrated poster of MLK’s “I have a dream” speech. I can still hear his voice as he delivered this message to the masses, a chilling reminder that human beings have a lot of learning to do. As I write this, I can see video clips stream by of MLK up on his podium. He was a beautiful orator and above all he was inspiring. I remember how I felt after I read his speech, after hearing his voice for the first time. It was hard to not shed a tear and feel the tug of your heart as he spoke.

There are very special people who can be considered true leaders, true motivators and he is one of them. Notice I said “he is” and not “he was”. While his physical body was violently taken from us, his spirit is still very much intact.

On October 15th, 1935 Willie Eldon O’Ree was born in Frederiction, NB. He has the notable distinction of being the first black player of Canadian descent to play in the NHL for the Boston Bruins.  I do find it very interesting that he had an Irish last name and played for the Bruins. The city of Boston is infamous for its Irish heritage.

Willie may have not ever been an orator like MLK, but his actions alone spoke louder than words. He wanted to play hockey and that he did.  Canada recognized his heroic efforts by giving him the “Order of Canada”.

I struggled mightily on who I was going to write about in honor of this special month. There were many names that rolled off the tip of my tongue. I decided that it was best that I write about the game of hockey as it is my true passion.  I feel a sense of guilt that I have left out others who are just as important as Mr. O’Ree.  I dedicate this post to all of our unspoken heroes of the civil rights movement.

Card Attibutes
Manufacturer: Upper Deck
Year: 2006-07 Parkhurst
Attributes: base card
Card Status: Will be kept in my personal collection


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