Hockey Pioneer To Be Honored By NHL

By BASN Wire Services
Updated: January 5, 2008

NEW YORK — In celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Willie O’Ree becoming the first black player in the NHL, the National Hockey League will host a “Diversity Luncheon” on Friday, Jan. 25, 2008 at 11:30 a.m. at the Westin Peachtree Hotel in downtown Atlanta.

The luncheon, part of the 2008 NHL All-Star Weekend, also will feature highlights of George and Darril Fosty’s documentary, Black Ice: The Lost History of the Colored Hockey League.

When he played for the Boston Bruins in a game against the Montreal Canadiens on January 18, 1958, O’Ree became the first black person to play in the NHL. Fifty years later, O’Ree is still involved in hockey as the Director of Youth for the NHL’s Diversity program.

In the past 10 years, he has helped expose more than 40,000 boys and girls of diverse backgrounds to hockey, while stressing the importance of essential life skills, education, and the core values of hockey: commitment, perseverance and teamwork.

In addition to honoring O’Ree, the luncheon will celebrate leaders in Atlanta who have contributed to promoting diversity. Local organizations will honor individuals in their community who display the same qualities O’Ree exhibits, including dedication to diversity.

The luncheon also will feature George Fosty, hockey historian and documentary filmmaker, presenting parts of his upcoming documentary film, Black Ice: The Lost History of the Colored Hockey League, which chronicles the 190-year history of blacks in hockey in North America.

This intriguing story includes the history of runaway American slaves who utilized the Underground Railroad to escape to Halifax, Nova Scotia and covers the formation of the Colored Hockey League. Black Ice captures the contributions African-Americans have made to hockey.

Net proceeds from the luncheon will benefit NHL Diversity, which provides support and programming to not-for-profit youth hockey organizations across North America.

Money raised also will go to the Atlanta Thrashers’ Foundation in support of several initiatives designed to engage diverse youth groups in the sport of hockey.

Purchase of a Top Shelf Table at $10,000 includes an exclusive invitation to a VIP reception with Willie O’Ree and other community leaders as well as recognition at the luncheon.

Tables of 10 also are available at the $7,500 and $5,000 level and can be purchased by calling 212-789-2788 or e-mailing by Jan 11, 2008.

The Westin Peachtree is located at 210 Peachtree St, Atlanta GA, 30303.