NEW YORK, N.Y. -- When Willie O'Ree stepped on to the ice for the Boston Bruins at the Montreal Forum the night of Jan. 18, 1958, it didn't even hit him that he was doing something historic. Despite it being his first game in the NHL, nerves weren't much of a factor, either.
Playing at the Forum wasn't a new experience for O'Ree. Years in junior hockey and a couple of training camps with the Boston Bruins had seen him play at the fabled Montreal arena countless times.
But the next day, the 23-year old O'Ree realized his first NHL game had become much more than an individual accomplishment.
That night, Willie O'Ree became the first person of color to play in the NHL.
Like baseball's Jackie Robinson 11 years prior, O'Ree faced taunts and racial slurs from opponents and rival fans. And like Robinson, he failed to react to the negativity that came his way in certain cities and focused on hockey.
"All I wanted to do was go out and play hockey and try to represent the hockey club to the b...