Willie O'Ree: NHL's first black player

ENTERTAINMENT - Willie O'Ree didn't let catcalls, slashes or cross-checks keep him from making his mark in the National Hockey League for the Boston Bruins. O'Ree, now 73, recalled becoming the NHL's first black player as he joined another league yesterday: the Order of Canada.

He was one of 60 people named to various ranks of honour by Governor General Michaëlle Jean. "I was at a loss for words, really, when they contacted me this morning," O'Ree, a Fredericton native, said from his home in California.

O'Ree played his first big-league game for Boston on Jan. 18, 1958, against the Habs in Montreal. He played two games in 1958 and 43 in 1960-61, receiving a standing ovation – one of his sweetest memories – when he became the first black player to score an NHL goal on New Year's Day 1961. Some of O'Ree's worst moments include the dirty play and racist taunts he faced during road games in New York, Detroit and Chicago.

"I just wanted to be accepted as just another hockey player." - Willie O'Ree

O'Ree now helps introduce inner-city kids to hockey through the NHL's diversity program.


Willie O'Ree, OC, ONB (born October 15, 1935, in Fredericton, New Brunswick) is a retired professional ice hockey player, known best for being the first black player in the National Hockey League. O'Ree played as a winger for the Boston Bruins. He is frequently but erroneously referred to as the first African American player, though while he is black, he is in fact a Canadian born and remains a Canadian national. Additionally, O'Ree is referred to as the "Jackie Robinson of ice hockey" due to breaking the colour barrier in the sport.

Midway through his second minor-league season with the Quebec Aces, O'Ree was called up to the Boston Bruins of the NHL to replace an injured player. O'Ree was 95% blind in his right eye due to being hit there by an errant puck two years earlier, which normally would have precluded him from playing in the NHL. However, O'Ree managed to keep it secret, and made his NHL debut with the Bruins on January 18, 1958, against the Montreal Canadiens, becoming the first black player in league history. He played in only two games that year, and came back in 1961 to play 43 games. He scored four goals and 10 assists in his NHL career, all in 1961.

Willie O'Ree noted that "racist remarks were much worse in the U.S. cities than in Toronto and Montreal," the two Canadian cities hosting NHL teams at the time, and that "Fans would yell, 'Go back to the South' and 'How come you're not picking cotton?' Things like that. It didn't bother me. I just wanted to be a hockey player, and if they couldn't accept that fact, that was their problem, not mine."

In the minor leagues, O'Ree won two scoring titles in the Western Hockey League (WHL) between 1961 and 1974, scoring thirty or more goals four times, with a high of 38 in both 1964–65 and 1968–69. Most of O'Ree's playing time was with the WHL's Los Angeles Blades and San Diego Gulls. The latter team retired his number, now hanging from the rafters at the San Diego Sports Arena. O'Ree continued to play in the minors until age 43.

After O'Ree, there was no other black player in the NHL until fellow Canadian Mike Marson was drafted by the Washington Capitals in 1974. There are 17 black players in the NHL as of the mid-2000s, the most prominent including Canadians Jarome Iginla and Anson Carter and American Mike Grier (who is currently on the San Jose Sharks). Art Dorrington was the first black player to sign an NHL contract, in 1950 with the New York Rangers organization, but Dorrington never played beyond the minor league level. NHL players are now required to enroll in a diversity training seminar before each season, and racially based verbal abuse is punished through suspensions and fines.

O'Ree was inducted into the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame in 1984. In 1998, O’Ree was working at the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego, California when the National Hockey League approached him to be the director of youth development for its diversity task force. The NHL/USA Hockey Diversity Task Force is a non-profit program for minority youth that encourages them to learn and play hockey. As of the mid-2000s, O'Ree lives in Berkeley, California.

On the afternoon of January 19, 2008, the Bruins and NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly honoured O'Ree at TD Banknorth Garden in Boston to mark the 50th anniversary of his NHL debut. In addition, The Sports Museum of New England located in TD Banknorth Garden, established a special exhibit on O'Ree's career, comprising many items on loan from his personal collection.

Those in attendance included a busload of friends from O'Ree's hometown of Fredericton. Two days earlier, the City of Fredericton honoured him by naming a new sports complex after him.

On January 27, 2008, the NHL also honored Mr. O'Ree during the 56th National Hockey League All-Star Game in Atlanta, Georgia.

On February 5, 2008, ESPN did a special on him in honour of Black History Month.

On October 29, 2008, San Diego State University presented Mr. O'Ree with an Award for Outstanding Commitment to Diversity and Cross Cultural Understanding.

See Also:

Hockey Fight in Canada

Wayne Gretsky and the Death of Hockey

Organizer of Rwandan Genocide sentenced

POLITICS - The main organizer behind the 1994 slaughter of 800,000 to 1,000,000 people people (the numbers vary depending on the source) in Rwanda was convicted of genocide Thursday and sentenced to life in prison, the most significant verdict of a United Nations tribunal set up to bring the killers to justice.

Theoneste Bagosora was found guilty of crimes against humanity, and the court said he used his position as the former director of Rwanda's Ministry of Defence to direct Hutu soldiers to kill Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

More than 800,000 minority Tutsis and Hutus were killed in the 100-day slaughter organized by the extremist Hutu government then in power. Government troops, Hutu militia and ordinary villagers spurred on by hate messages broadcast over the radio went from village to village, butchering men, women and children.

Bagosora had participated in international talks arranged in the early 1990s with the aim of ending Rwanda's long-simmering political crisis. Bagosora grew angry with government delegates he deemed soft on Tutsi-led rebels and said he was returning to Rwanda to "prepare the apocalypse" the indictment quoted Bagosora as saying. The killings began April 7th 1994.

The former colonel also was found responsible for the deaths of former Rwandan prime minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana – a moderate Hutu – and 10 Belgian peacekeepers who tried to protect her as she was killed at the outset of the genocide.

Bagasora said nothing as the verdict was delivered, and there was complete silence from the scores of people who had packed into the aisles of the tiny courtroom to hear the judgment.

His conviction was welcomed by genocide survivors, who still live uneasily among perpetrators in Rwanda's green hills nearly 15 years later.

Some 63,000 people are suspected of taking part in the genocide, although many of them have been sentenced by community-based courts, where suspects were encouraged to confess and seek forgiveness in exchange for lighter sentences.

The Tanzania-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was set up by the UN in 1994 to try those responsible for the killings and had its first conviction in 1997. There have been 42 judgments, of which six have been acquittals. It does not have the power to impose the death sentence.

Canadian general Romeo Dallaire, who now sits in the Canadian Senate, was in charge of the failed UN peacekeeping mission in Rwanda when the massacres began. In court testimonies, Dallaire has spoken about a spiral of mistrust between Hutus and Tutsis in the days leading up to the massacres and described how his peacekeeping force of 2,100 was hastily assembled and poorly equipped to deal with the situation. His demands for more troops and air support were ignored by the United States, Europe and other UN members.

Remembering Shirley Chisholm

FEMINISM/POLITICS - Shirley Chisholm (November 30th 1924 – January 3rd 2005), an advocate for women and people of color, was the first Black woman in the United States Congress, being elected to Brooklyn’s 12th Congressional District of the House in 1968.

As a Congresswoman she represented New York's 12th Congressional District for seven terms from 1969 to 1983.

In 1972 she became the first African-American and one of the first women to run for the presidential nomination for a major party. She won 28 delegates but didn’t win the Democratic nomination. She was also a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus and NOW (the National Organization of Women).

Chisholm also worked on a bill that gave domestic workers the right to a minimum wage, worked to improve opportunities for inner-city residents, a vocal opponent of the Vietnam War draft and supported spending increases for education, health care, a variety of social services, and reductions in military spending.

She retired in 1982 and after leaving Congress Chisholm taught at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts for four years and gave public lectures on a variety of causes.

Chisholm wrote two books, Unbought and Unbossed (1970) and The Good Fight (1973). A documentary (Shirley Chisholm '72: Unbought and Unbossed) about her life and her 1972 presidential nomination was aired in February 2005 just weeks after her death.

Brown is Beautiful

POLITICS - Excerpt from a Newsweek article by Allison Samuels about Michelle Obama:

“As my brunch friends and I continued talking about Michelle, our conversation wandered into one area we seldom discuss, even among our families and closest confidantes. Michelle is not only African-American, but brown. Real brown. In an era when beauty is often defined on television, in magazines and in movies as fair or white skin, long straight hair and keen features, Michelle looks nothing like the supermodels who rule the catwalks or the porcelain-faced actresses who hawk must-have cosmetics. Yet now she’s going to grace the March cover of Vogue magazine–the ultimate affirmation of beauty.

Who and what is beautiful has long been a source of pain, anger and frustration in the African-American community. In too many cases, beauty for black women (and even black men) has meant fair skin, “good hair” and dainty facial features. Over the years, African-American icons like Lena Horne, Dorothy Dandridge, Halle Berry and Beyoncé – while beautiful and talented – haven’t exactly represented the diversity of complexions and features of most black women in this country.

That limited scope has had a profound effect on the self-esteem of many African-American women, including me. “When I see Michelle Obama on the cover of magazines and on TV shows, I think, Wow, look at her and her brown skin,” said Charisse Hollands, a 30-year-old mail carrier from Inglewood, Calif., with flawless ebony skin. “And I don’t mean any disrespect to my sisters who aren’t dark brown, but gee, it’s nice to see a brown girl get some attention and be called beautiful by the world. That just doesn’t happen a lot, and our little girls need to see that–my little girl needs to see it.”

Black supermodels absent from the catwalk

FASHION - Check out this article about black supermodels in January 2008:

Black Supermodels being left behind

Its poses the question at the end:
"So will 2009 be more of the same? You'd hope the Obama effect would sink in and the fashion industry would suddenly realize black supermodels aren't just sexy, they're cool."

And it has statistics on the lack of black fashion models on runways and how some fashion casting agents won't even consider non-white models.

Hopefully with Barack Obama as president it will set a new standard, open people's minds to new possibilities and people will realize black women (and men) should get more attention and be treated equally instead of as a token gesture. Not just in the world of fashion supermodels, but in the new economy overall.

Oprah Winfrey weighs 200 pounds, she says

HEALTH - Oprah Winfrey has always been honest about her weight.

The talk show queen continues the honesty, saying in the January issue of O magazine out today that she now weighs 200 pounds and has "fallen off the wagon" when it comes to healthy living.

"I'm mad at myself. I'm embarrassed," Oprah writes. "I can't believe that after all these years, all the things I know how to do, I'm still talking about my weight. I look at my thinner self and think, `How did I let this happen again?"'

Oprah Winfrey, 54, says her recent struggles with an out-of-balance thyroid gave her "a fear of working out." She says she's gained 40 pounds since she weighed 160 pounds in 2006. "Yes, you're adding correctly; that means the dreaded 2-0-0," Winfrey writes. "I was so frustrated I started eating whatever I wanted – and that's never good."

Oprah also writes that her goal is to exercise so she can be strong, healthy and fit. She hopes to get started with her upcoming "Best Life Week" starting Jan. 5 with an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show during which she is expected to talk candidly about her weight.

Oprah famously wheeled a wagon loaded with fat onto the set of her talk show in 1988 to represent a 67-pound weight loss while wearing a pair of size 10 Calvin Klein jeans. She had lost the pounds with a liquid protein diet.

Oprah's weight has yo-yoed to the delight of the tabloid press ever since. She weighed as many as 237 pounds and by late 1990 admitted she had regained most of the 67 pounds, saying "I'll never diet again."

In 1994, she finished the Marine Corps Marathon and by 1996 hired personal trainer Bob Greene, saying her roller-coaster weight saga was over.

But now, 20 years since the Calvin Klein jeans episode, Oprah finds herself tipping the scales again, saying that she has yet to choose a gown for President-elect Barack Obama's inaugural ball next month.

Oprah says she hit rock bottom when she wanted to skip out on an April 26 taping with Cher and Tina Turner in Las Vegas. "I felt like a fat cow," Winfrey writes. "I wanted to disappear." An admitted food addict, Oprah sounds almost apologetic in her article. "I definitely wasn't setting an example," she writes. "I was talking the talk, but I wasn't walking the walk. And that was very disappointing to me."

Oprah's weight and height (5'6½") put her body mass index at 31.8, which is obese according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC says people who are obese are "at higher risk for chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol."

See also: American Obesity Rates.

Lakeview Terrace

Tutu wants Mugabe out

POLITICS - A day after Zimbabwe declared a national emergency over a cholera epidemic and the collapse of its health-care system, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu yesterday called for the removal of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, by force if necessary.

"I think now that the world must say: `You have been responsible with your cohorts for gross violations, and you are going to face indictment in The Hague unless you step down,'" Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, told a Dutch current affairs TV show.

Zimbabwe's state media reported yesterday the government is seeking more international help to combat the crisis.

The failure of the southern African nation's health care system is one of the most devastating effects of the country's overall economic collapse.

Facing the highest inflation in the world, Zimbabweans are struggling just to eat and find clean drinking water. The United Nations says the number of suspected cholera cases in Zimbabwe since August has climbed above 12,600, with 570 deaths, due to a lack of clean water and broken sewage pipes.

Cholera is an infectious intestinal disease contracted from contaminated food or water. Its symptoms include severe diarrhea.

"He (Mugabe) has destroyed a wonderful country. A country that used to be a bread basket – it has now become a basket case," Tutu said.

The Nobel laureate, who was one of the continent's leading voices against the former apartheid regime in South Africa, said the African Union or the Southern African Development Community (SADC) would have the capacity to remove Mugabe.

Residents are getting little help from the government, which has been paralyzed since disputed March elections as Mugabe and the opposition wrangle over a power-sharing deal.

"Our central hospitals are literally not functioning," Health Minister David Parirenyatwa said Wednesday at a meeting of government and international aid officials, according to the state-run Herald newspaper.

International aid agencies and donors must step up their response, Matthew Cochrane, regional spokesperson for the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said yesterday.

"This is about supporting the people of Zimbabwe," Cochrane said, adding aid should include water treatment plants and more medical staff.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, long among Mugabe's sharpest critics, agreed that Zimbabwe was facing a national emergency and nations must step in to help.

"Mugabe's failed state is no longer willing or capable of protecting its people," Brown said in a statement yesterday.

"The international community's differences with Mugabe will not prevent us doing so – we are increasing our development aid, and calling on others to follow."

Britain has offered about $5.6 million and set aside a further $13.1 million in relief aid to provide medicine, fund basic health services and help prevent more cholera outbreaks in Zimbabwe.

The European Commission is providing more than $19.5 million for drugs and clean water and the International Red Cross shipped in more supplies Wednesday to fight the cholera outbreak.

In 2006 Robert Mugabe visited Iran to discuss trade options and an alliance against the United States.

Remembering Rosa Parks

POLITICS - Rosa Louise McCauley Parks (February 4, 1913 – October 24, 2005) was an African American civil rights activist whom the U.S. Congress later called the "Mother of the Modern-Day Civil Rights Movement".

On December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, Parks refused to obey bus driver James Blake's order that she give up her seat to make room for a white passenger. Parks' action sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Parks's act of defiance became an important symbol of the modern Civil Rights Movement and Parks became an international icon of resistance to racial segregation. She organized and collaborated with civil rights leaders, including boycott leader Martin Luther King, Jr., helping to launch him to national prominence in the civil rights movement.

Rosa was later honoured by numerous medals and statues, wrote an auto-biography and her death in 2005 was a front-page story in the United States' leading newspapers.


"The only tired I was, was tired of giving in." - Rosa Parks.

"I knew someone had to take the first step and I made up my mind not to move." - Rosa Parks.

"Our mistreatment was just not right, and I was tired of it." - Rosa Parks.

"I would like to be known as a person who is concerned about freedom and equality and justice and prosperity for all people." - Rosa Parks.

Total Pageviews

Popular Posts