Skip to main content
Hall of Fame

O'Ree to be subject of feature-length documentary film

First black player in NHL is member of Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2018

by @NHLdotcom

Willie O'Ree, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday, will be the subject of "Willie," a documentary chronicling the story and upbringing of the first black player in the NHL, according to

The feature-length film, which executive producer Bryant McBride told is "10 percent about hockey and 90 percent about life," is scheduled to be released in 2019.




O'Ree broke the color barrier in the NHL when he played for the Boston Bruins against the Montreal Canadiens on Jan. 18, 1958. His debut came two years after losing sight in his right eye from a shot that also broke his nose and cheekbone. Though he played 45 NHL games, O'Ree has become a predominant spokesman for the League since returning to hockey with the NHL/USA Hockey Diversity Task Force, now known as Hockey is for Everyone, in 1995.

"Kids can smell a phony," McBride said. "I've watched him walk into hundreds of rooms, and kids go, 'Wow, this guy's important -- he's the Jackie Robinson of hockey.'"

Hockey Hall of Famers Wayne Gretzky and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, along with Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds, Kelsey Koelzer of the National Women's Hockey League and Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are among the notables interviewed for the documentary. The film culminates with O'Ree's induction to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

"Willie O'Ree's place in hockey history and the impact he's had on growing the game is truly inspirational," NHL chief content officer and EVP Steve Mayer told "Willie's commitment to hockey is matched only by his dedication to encouraging young people to follow their dreams. He is a true ambassador of the game, and we're proud to be able to help tell his incredible story of perseverance, community, patience and resilience."

View More

The NHL uses cookies, web beacons, and other similar technologies. By using NHL websites or other online services, you consent to the practices described in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our Cookie Policy.