WASHINGTON -- Diversity and inclusiveness were celebrated when the Canadian Embassy hosted the launch of the NHL Black Hockey History Tour on Monday.
Hundreds flowed through the mobile museum that was parked outside the embassy over the weekend and Monday on its first stop of a tour of 14 NHL cities as part of the League's celebration of Black History Month.
The mobile museum, a partnership between the NHL and NHLPA, will travel from Washington, D.C., to Seattle until March 22.
"As we think about the occasion this evening, I focus on three words: Engage, inform and inspire," Kim Davis, NHL Executive Vice President of Social Impact, Growth Initiatives and Legislative Affairs, said at the embassy reception. "This is really the theme behind our efforts to tell the stories of hockey's past, present and future with the launch of the NHL truck tour."
Kirsten Hillman, Canada's interim ambassador to the United States, said her country was proud to host the mobile museum for the second consecutive year.
"This museum is giving everyone the opportunity to learn more about the history of black men ad black women that have helped shape the game of hockey," Hillman said. "And we've very, very proud and delighted to welcome our dear friend, Canadian Willie O'Ree, to our embassy."
O'Ree, who became the NHL's first black player when he debuted with the Boston Bruins against the Montreal Canadiens on Jan. 18, 1958 at the Montreal Forum, toured the museum Monday and called it a "must-see exhibit."
The museum features an entire wall dedicated to achievements in black hockey history, including O'Ree's NHL debut, former Chicago Blackhawks forward Dirk Graham becoming the League's first black captain, and goalie Grant Fuhr becoming the first black person enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Every black player in NHL history is represented throughout the museum, including a "Wall of Pucks" exhibit. And at every stop, the museum will have a customized NHL locker room.
"I think everybody should have the opportunity to walk through it and get a look at all the pictures and memorabilia that's in it," said O'Ree, whose Bruins jersey is part of the mobile exhibit.
William Campbell said he had to visit the mobile museum Monday with his 5-year-old daughter, Madison, after seeing a story about it on local TV news.
"Man, this is great," Campbell said. "I wasn't going to miss this, especially with her. This is history she needs to see."
It's a history that Eloise Miller-Hall said she knew little about before touring the museum Monday. She said she came away impressed.
"The past players, what they had to endure, and these young guys, they just pick the stick up and they're still going at it," said Miller-Hall, a Maryland resident. "This is their sport, they love it, and nobody is going to stop them. I've learned something today."