Thursday, January 17, 2008

A hometown hero is honoured

I think we could all stand some good news right about now...

Last night one of my personal heroes, Mr. Willie O'Ree (I introduced you to him on Canada Day a few years back), was honoured here in his hometown of Fredericton. The new sports complex the city just built was officially named Willie O'Ree Place at a ceremony last evening. The timing was excellent, as it was 50 years ago this year that Mr. O'Ree broke the colour bar in professional hockey by becoming the first black player to play in the NHL, suiting up for the Boston Bruins to defeat Montreal 3-0. (For that breakthrough, I can even forgive the Bruins for defeating my beloved Habs.)

The official naming of the rink capped off Willie O'Ree Week, an official chance to honour Mr. O'Ree and reflect on his place in hockey and social history, in his city, in his country, and internationally. It's the sweeter because even though Mr. O'Ree no longer lives in Fredericton, his visits here are frequent and he is a familiar face, always-smiling, always ready to chat or sign an autograph or have his picture taken. Graciousness personified.

The whole city has been buzzing about this for months, ever since City Council announced it would name the building after Mr. O'Ree. (When the issue of choosing a name was originally raised, my personal thought was that there was no way any Fredericton city council that could walk and chew gum at the same time could not name this skating complex place after Willie O'Ree without causing an uproar. I think I would've moved outside city limits if it hadn't.) NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman attended a dinner in Mr. O'Ree's honour Thursday night. A Big Deal is being made of a very fine man, who is clearly touched by it, and it's a nice thing to see.




Blogger Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

I googled Mr. O'Ree and he's led a very interesting life - blind in one eye for his whole pro career!

You might want to check your first link (the "I introduced you to him" link) - i get a 404 error..?

4:20 p.m.  
Blogger ronnie said...

Thanks for the heads-up! Link is fixed now.

5:34 p.m.  

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