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NHL's first black player inducted into Hall of Fame

By Alex Butler

Nov. 13 (UPI) -- William O'Ree, who broke the NHL color barrier in 1958 as the league's first black player, has been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

O'Ree and Gary Bettman were inducted in the builder category while Martin Brodeur, Jayna Hefford, Martin St. Louis and Alexander Yakushev entered the Hall of Fame in the player category on Monday at Brookfield Place in Toronto.

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The 83-year-old collected more than 1,000 points during his 22-year hockey career. He also served as the league's Diversity Ambassador. O'Ree made his NHL debut on Jan. 18, 1958, for the Boston Bruins in Montreal. He scored his first goal on Jan. 1, 1961. He hit the 450 milestone for goals and assists in 1,100 games.

"Believe it or not, on January 18, 1958, when I stepped on the ice with the Bruins, it did not dawn on me that I was breaking the NHL's color barrier," O'Ree said in his speech. "That's how focused I was on making my dream come true."

O'Ree has also built and supported more than 30 non-profit youth hockey programs throughout North America since 1998.

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"Willie has just as much of an impact on hockey as a guy like Wayne Gretzky," Nashville Predators star P.K. Subban said in an NHL news release. "His impact on the sport is just that great when you think about it ... I wouldn't be playing in the League if it wasn't for Willie O'Ree."

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