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Honoring Willie O'Ree

by Tricia Friedman / LA Kings

For the puck drop of our afternoon Lightning v Kings game, we had none other than Willie O'Ree do the ceremonial honors.

O'Ree made his NHL debut on Jan. 18, 1958. He was called up to the Boston Bruins and became the first player to break the league's color barrier. 

His connection to the Los Angeles area: he played most of his WHL (Western Hockey League) career on the Los Angeles Blades and San Diego Gulls. To read about the Los Angeles Blades, written by Sheng Peng, click the link here.

Prior to the puck drop, O'Ree attended a screening of the documentary "Soul On Ice" with local YMCA children. 

Tweet from @LAKings: NHL legend Willie O'Ree & the #LAKings host local @ymca kids for a special screening of the renowned documentary "Soul on Ice!"

Right before the game began, FOX Sports West aired an excellent piece on O'Ree, his life, his impact on hockey and more:  

Tweet from @LAKings: The first person to break the color barrier in the @NHL���: Willie O'Ree. From @FOXSportsWEST.

In the arena, as fans entered STAPLES Center, we played Martin Luther King Jr's speech on the jumbo-tron. This set the mood for what was to transpire on the ice with the puck-drop from O'Ree, our alternate captain Jeff Carter, and Tampa Bay Lightning player Brian Boyle.

Tweet from @LAKings: Thank you, Willie O'Ree. ������

Fans in attendance and those watching at home appreciated O'Ree and the impact he made to the game. Some were lucky enough to meet the man in person too at STAPLES Center.

Tweet from @LauraJSilverman: This was cool. 81 yrs old. Became the first black player in the NHL in 1958 w @NHLBruins. Fun fact: was blind in one eye but kept it secret! Tweet from @LauraJSilverman: Willie would hear shouts from American crowds like 'go back to the South' & 'go pick cotton!' He was, however, Canadian. @NHLBruins @LAKings

Tweet from @isaiahmustafa: Loved seeing the @LAKings honor the first black @nhl player Willie O'Ree on #MLKDAY #GKG

Tweet from @CanCGLA: Very cool of the @LAKings to honor a great Canadian on #MLKDAY

Tweet from @big_kish: Incredibly honored to have met Willie O���Ree, the first black player in the NHL, on #MLKDay. Biggest gratitude to @kwamster007

We thank you, Willie O'Ree, for all that you have done for hockey. 

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