Born and bred a passionate hockey player from New Brunswick, O'Ree broke into NHL history by being it's first black player after being called up to replace a player on injury for the Bruins in 1956.
He played only two games then, but five years later he returned as a full-time winger, playing 43 games with the Bruins, scoring 4 goals, assisting on 10, and accruing 26 penalty minutes. He is also the first black player to score an NHL goal. All scored and assisted whilst being blind in his right eye, which he'd kept a close secret with only a few of his teammates until finally he had to come clean.
After being traded and having his contract sold, Willie played in the minors for the rest of his career, giving the WHL's San Diego Gulls a player they could be proud of until his retirement in 1979, breaking many scoring records and eventually getting his name hung in the rafters along with his number, a testament to 30 years of being just that good.
In 1998, after several small-time management jobs in the San Diego area, he was back in the NHL, as the official director of youth development and as the NHL's embassador for diversity.
Upon his impact, O'Ree has had nothing but warm praise for the players he's inspired.
"...What a pleasure it's been to meet players like Mike Grier and Anson Carter who have told me I opened a door and made it possible for them. They know they are role models for younger boys and girls playing now. These kids are now setting goals for themselves because it is possible to break that barrier. You can do what you want if you believe you can and if you think you can, you will."
This also includes the defenseman you love to hate, PK Subban. Whom he had a great conversation with on ESPN during their "Trailblazers Conversation" segment.
As always, a real classy dude.
Have a great day, Mr. O'Ree, and thank you.