What do you do for a man who’s just been immortalized on a Hockey Hall of Fame plaque? Make a bobblehead in his image.
That’s what the San Diego Gulls of the American Hockey League did for Willie O’Ree, the National Hockey League’s first black player.
San Diego honored O’Ree, who played seven seasons for Gulls teams that skated in the defunct Western Hockey League and Pacific Hockey League, at a home game Friday night after he was enshrined at the Hall Monday evening.
— San Diego Gulls (@SDGullsAHL) November 17, 2018
O’Ree became the NHL’s first black player on January 18, 1958 when he skated for the Boston Bruins against the Montreal Canadiens at the old Montreal Forum.
— NHL.com (@NHLdotcom) November 17, 2018
He appeared in 45 games over two NHL seasons, a remarkable feat considering that he’s blind in his right eye – the result of being struck by a puck.
But the injury didn’t prevent him from having a long and productive minor league career, most of which was played in San Diego.
“I was a San Diego Gull when I came here in 1967 and I still am,” O’Ree told the bobblehead-receiving fans inside the Valley View Casino Center Friday.”It is the finest group of fans I ever played in front of and I am honored to be part of this tonight.”
Game day! We honor Hockey Hall of Famer Willie O'Ree tonight with an on-ice ceremony, some sweet throwback threads, and a bobblehead giveaway 🙌
— San Diego Gulls (@SDGullsAHL) November 16, 2018
O’Ree, who makes his home in San Diego, finished his playing career in 1978-79 as the old WHL’s 16th all-time leading scorer with 328 goals and 311 assists in 785 games.
O’Ree entered the Hall as a Builder, a category reserved for those who have contributed to the foundation of the game.
His induction into the Hall is a a nod to his work as the NHL’s diversity ambassador and its “Hockey is for Everyone” initiative.
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