Here’s Why You Need To Know Willie O’Ree, The “Jackie Robinson Of Hockey”

Jackie Robinson is an icon. To be the first player to break the color boundaries in baseball must have taken the utmost courage. Robinson helped bust the door wide open for another critical player in sports history. Not in baseball, but hockey. Willie O’Ree or the “Jackie Robinson of hockey” paved the path in his sport. He’s blind in one eye and that wasn’t the only obstacle that he had to overcome. As impactful as Robinson was, the legacy O’Ree created shouldn’t be forgotten.

O’Ree Meets Jackie Robinson

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Perhaps this story started when O’Ree was only 14 and playing baseball. After his team won the championship, their reward was a trip to New York, where O’Ree and Robinson would meet. The connection happened two years after Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball.

The team watched a Dodger game and met with the legend. O’Ree shook Robinson’s hand and told him he loved hockey. O’Ree recalled the meeting, “Then I said, ‘I’m a baseball player, but what I really love is hockey.’ He responded by saying with a smile, ‘Oh? I didn’t know black kids played hockey.’ I smiled back and said, ‘Yup!’” Little did he know he was on his way to following in Robinson’s footsteps.