Willie O’Ree elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame

O'Ree was the first black player in the NHL and will be the third black player in the Hall of Fame.

Willie O'Ree
Former Boston Bruins wing Willie O'Ree tips his hat as he is honored prior to the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Montreal Canadiens. –Associated Press

The Hockey Hall of Fame has added NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, pioneering black player Willie O’Ree and all-time winningest goaltender Martin Brodeur to its latest class.

Since taking the job in 1993, Bettman has overseen the growth of the league to 31 teams and an enterprise with some $5 billion in revenue.

O’Ree was the first black player in the NHL and will be the third black player in the Hall of Fame, joining Edmonton Oilers goalie Grant Fuhr and Canadian women’s national team captain Angela James. Playing for Boston, he had four goals and 10 assists in 45 NHL games during the 1957-58 and 1960-61 seasons despite being 95 percent blind in his right eye.

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Now 82, O’Ree works for the NHL as diversity ambassador.

The 46-year-old Brodeur was a three-time Stanley Cup champion with the New Jersey Devils who was elected in his first year of eligibility. He is the goalie with the most wins, shutouts and games played in NHL history.