NHL pioneer O’Ree to appear at Canisius-Niagara game Thursday night

Willie O’Ree will be attending the Canisius-Niagara game on Thursday night (Feb. 16) to take part in a ceremonial puck drop at Dwyer Arena as part of a celebration of Black History Month.

O’Ree became the first black player in the NHL, playing for the Boston Bruins on Jan. 18, 1958 against the Montreal Canadiens, paving the way for future players of diverse ethnic and economic backgrounds.

“Having a pioneer of the game of hockey like Willie O’Ree at Dwyer Arena is an honor and a privilege,” Niagara director of athletics Ed McLaughlin said in a statement. “He is a powerful example of the ability to reach your dreams through the sport of hockey and having him join us during Black History Month will be impactful for our student-athletes.”

O’Ree is presently the NHL’s director of youth development, working with the Hockey Is For Everyone initiative and helping to expose more than 45,000 boys and girls of diverse backgrounds to unique hockey experiences.