Historic Markers Across Florida

Willie O'Ree - Barrier Breaker

Marker ID:  
Location: 105 E. Orange Ave, Daytona Beach, FL
County: Volusia
Coordinates: N 29° 12.55    W 081° 0.999
  29.20916666    -81.01665
Style: Interpretative Sign **
Waymark: None


Willie O'Ree
Barrier Breaker
—Jackie Robinson Ballpark & Museum —

January 18, 1958, a strong, diligent athlete by the name of Willie O'Ree broke the color barrier in the National Hockey League. Playing with the Boston Bruins in Montreal, against the Canadians. Often referred to as the “Jackie Robinson of hockey", Willie O'Ree acknowledges that he did not experience the same degree of challenge that Jackie Robinson had experienced. Although accepted by his teammates, Willie O'Ree was still confronted with racist and derogatory comments from fans and players. Known for his speed and agility on the ice, O'Ree played his entire 20 year career with one eye, a result of a puck injury to his right eye.

In 1998, Willie O'Ree was honored by being named the Director of Youth Hockey Development for the NHL/USA hockey diversity task force, recognizing his pioneering efforts to diversify the sport of hockey. “Our job is to help these kids along, help them with their skills, hockey skills and other life skills. To make sure they are heading in the right direction. Hopefully I can make a difference, and we'll see more minority players in the NHL."

In a fitting tribute to Willie O'Ree's career, the NHL created an all-star game for young minority hockey players. The Willie O'Ree all-star game is held every year at the world junior championships.

(photo caption)
Photo courtesy of NHL images

A picture of this marker can be found on HMDB.org