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Source:  San Diego Gulls

November 19, 2022 (San Diego) - The San Diego Gulls will hold a ceremonial puck drop in celebration of hockey legend and pioneer, Willie O’Ree, as he is presented with a County Proclamation declaring Nov. 19 “Willie O’Ree Day” throughout San Diego County. San Diego County Supervisor Joel Anderson, an avid Gulls fan, will present O’Ree with the award before the Gulls play the Grand Rapids Griffins this Saturday, Nov. 19 at Pechanga Arena San Diego (7 p.m.). O’Ree will be honored not only for his incredible contributions as a valued member of the San Diego Community, but for his influential legacy throughout the sport of ice hockey and his commitment to empowering youth with the sport.

“Willie O’Ree is an exceptional athlete who broke the race barrier in the NHL and paved the way for future players of all backgrounds – and he did it all while secretly blind in one eye,” Anderson said. “Even after retirement, Willie continued promoting sportsmanship and empowering youth through his ‘Hockey is for Everyone’ initiative. It is my great honor to present one of my heroes a Proclamation in honor of his contributions to our county and country.”

The trailblazer made his National Hockey League debut with the Boston Bruins on Jan. 18, 1958, breaking the league’s color barrier and taking the first step to establishing inclusion within hockey. O’Ree’s professional hockey career spanned 21 years, including 45 games with the Bruins (1957-58 and 1960-61), 13 seasons in the Western Hockey League split between the Los Angeles Blades (1961-67) and the San Diego Gulls (1967-72 and 1972-74), as well as time with the New Haven Nighthawks of the American Hockey League (1972-73) and the San Diego Hawks of the Pacific Hockey League (1978-79).

The Fredericton, New Brunswick native joined the NHL office as the Director of Youth Development and Diversity Ambassador in 1998, promoting and facilitating inclusion, dedication and diversity throughout schools and youth hockey programs across North America. In 2018, O’Ree was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame for his profound impact on the sport. Later that year, the NHL instituted the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award to be given to those who exemplify O’Ree’s legacy by making a positive impact on society through hockey.

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