Project 91: Willie O’Ree: The Amazing Role Model for Everyone

Student Name(s): Muneeb

School: Edmonton Islamic Academy

Grade: 4


Research Topic / Main Questions:

Who is Willie O’Ree? Why is he a role model for people? How have his accomplishments paved the way for others? Why did I choose to feature Willie O’Ree?

Why did you choose this topic:

I chose to research the professional hockey player Willie O’Ree because I enjoy playing floor hockey at school. I enjoy participating in team sports, and I enjoy working with others. I learn from winning, but I also learn from losing. I wanted to research more about the life of Willie O’Ree because he dealt with hardships in being a visible minority while playing professional hockey. I studied role models in February during Black History Month. He was a pioneer for visible minorities in the National Hockey League.

Please summarize your experience in researching this project?

Willie O’Ree was born on October 15, 1935. He is a retired Canadian professional ice hockey player. He is best known for being the first black hockey player in the National Hockey League. O’Ree played as a winger for the Boston Bruins. He is often referred to as the Jackie Robinson of ice hockey. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on November 18. In 1957-1958, he played for the Boston Bruins. In his second season, he played 43 games and scored 4 goals and added 10 assists.

Remarkably, O’Ree played with an injury and disability most of his career. Safety is important. Hockey helmets became mandatory in the NHL in 1979. In junior hockey, Willie O’Ree was injured in his right eye after he took a puck in the face. He lost 95 percent of the vision in his right eye. Fearing his hockey career was over, he kept this a secret. “While I played, the only person who knew I was blind in my right eye was my sister, and I swore her to secrecy,” O’Ree said. O’Ree’s perseverance shows that he is a champion. He fought through his vision impairment and had success.

How did you personally connect to this project?

I can relate to Willie O’Ree because I am Sudanese. I have seen racism at school and outside of school. In Canada, we live in a multicultural society. The Canadian Charter of RIghts and Freedoms gives us Equality Rights. As Canadians, we are all equal, and everyone should be respected regardless of race, ethnicity, age and gender. The fact that Willie O’Ree was the first black person to play in the National Hockey League is astonishing. It shows me that I can be anything I want as long as I am determined. Just like Moccasin Danny in “The Moccasin Goalie” by William Roy Brownridge, O”Ree overcame challenges to play hockey.

What are your conclusions about your topic?

The path of Willie O’Ree was not an easy one. Willie O’Ree, like Jackie Robinson in Major League Baseball, were “trail blazers.” They opened opportunities for future generations. I am inspired by people such as Willie O’Ree because they show you that determination and perseverance can lead you to success. O’Ree inspired generations of people. He inspired many people such as P.K. Subban. Subban is one of the NHL’s best defenseman. He met O’Ree at the 2016 NHL Winter Classic.