Willie O’Ree, who has been called the “Jackie Robinson of the NHL,” will be in Philadelphia this weekend to share with young student athletes his stories about becoming the league’s first black player in 1958.
In celebration of the NHL’s “Hockey is for Everyone” month, the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation and the Flyers will bring more than 100 inner-city students, coaches and directors from across North America to Philadelphia for the Willie O’Ree Skills Weekend. It will be held Friday through Sunday, and events will take place at the National Liberty Museum, the National Constitution Center, the University of Pennsylvania’s Class of ’23 Arena, and the Scanlon Ice Rink.
Throughout the weekend, O’Ree, 82, will address the youngsters and share his experiences as a trailblazer in professional hockey.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without Willie O’Ree’s persistence and courage,” said Flyers right winger Wayne Simmonds, an honorary co-chair of the weekend and a member of the Snider Hockey board of directors. “Willie is not only a hero to me in hockey, but a hero in life.”
“We are fortunate to welcome Willie O’Ree to Philadelphia and honor him for changing the great game of hockey forever,” said Scott Tharp, president of Snider Hockey.
Tharp said O’Ree will have a “lasting impact” and inspire the student athletes who attend.
A large portion of the weekend will focus on what the NHL calls its “declaration of principles,” including acceptance, courage, perseverance, respect, humility, passion, integrity, and teamwork.
In addition, student athletes will examine the lives of groundbreaking African Americans in American history by visiting the “Breaking Barriers” show at the National Constitution Center on Saturday.
The athletes will attend an ice hockey game Saturday between Duquesne and Drexel at the University of Pennsylvania’s Class of ’23 Arena, where they also will hear from Hockey Hall of Fame goalie Bernie Parent, a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Flyers who was named one of the NHL’s 100 best players.
On-ice activities, including a skill development session, a skills competition, and an on-ice scrimmage, will take place at Class of ’23 Arena and Scanlon Ice Rink throughout the weekend. The skill development session will take place at the Scanlon Ice Rink on Friday, with the skills competition and scrimmage held at the Class of ’23 Arena on Saturday and Sunday.
The late Ed Snider, one of the Flyers’ founders, created Snider Hockey in 2005 as a commitment to teaching children important life lessons.