NHL’s first black player Willie O’Ree honored at All-Star Game

Jeff Vinik (left), owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning, looks on as Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner, and Willie O'Ree, the first black player in the NHL, share a hug after taking a picture together with Tampa Bay Lightning Steven Stamkos. O'Ree is to be honored as the Community Hero before the 2018 NHL All-Star Skills Competition at Amalie Arena in Tampa Saturday evening. (01/27/18). DIRK SHADD   |   Times
Jeff Vinik (left), owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning, looks on as Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner, and Willie O'Ree, the first black player in the NHL, share a hug after taking a picture together with Tampa Bay Lightning Steven Stamkos. O'Ree is to be honored as the Community Hero before the 2018 NHL All-Star Skills Competition at Amalie Arena in Tampa Saturday evening. (01/27/18). DIRK SHADD | Times
Published January 28
Updated January 28

The Lightning honored Willie O'Ree as the Community Hero of the Game during Sunday's All-Star Game at Amalie Arena.

O'Ree, 82, became the first black player in the National Hockey League when he joined the Boston Bruins on Jan. 18, 1958.

O'Ree was 95 percent blind in his right eye, a fact he kept to himself, knowing if he didn't it would end his career before it began. The blindness was the result of being struck in the eye years earlier.

O'Ree played in 45 NHL games during parts of two seasons. He had four goals and 10 assists.

The Lightning awarded O'Ree a check for $100,000 for the NHL's Hockey is For Everyone program.

O'Ree has been the NHL's diversity ambassador since 1998. Part of the Lightning's donation will go toward starting a Hockey Is For Everyone program in Tampa. The program provides young people of all backgrounds an opportunity to play hockey while teaching teamwork, respect, dedication and inclusion.

By the time O'Ree was honored Sunday, Nashville's P.K Subban, the only black player  in the NHL All-Star Game, had left the ice. Subban's Central Division team lost 5-2 to the Pacific Division in Sunday's first game.

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