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HHPL Announces the 2023 One Book, One Halton Hills Selection

HALTON HILLS, ON/ January 27, 2022 – The Halton Hills Public Library is excited to announce this year’s One Book, One Halton Hills title and author, Willie: The Game-Changing Story of the NHL’s First Black Player by Willie O’Ree, with Michael McKinley. This inspiring and powerful story of a Canadian player who broke barriers and sparked activism through his love of the game will resonate with the Halton Hills community, particularly with its proud hockey heritage.

Join the Halton Hills community in celebrating Willie, by borrowing a copy from the library today. For younger readers, don’t miss the opportunity to learn more about this ground-breaking hockey legend. Junior biographies of Willie O’Ree are available in both English and French. If you wish to own a copy, please visit Indigospirit in the Georgetown Market Place Mall.

Growing up in Fredericton in the 1940s, Willie’s family was one of two black families in the town. His grandparents had found their way to Canada via the Underground Railroad. While there were some unspoken rules of racial division in Fredericton during Willie’s childhood, it did not prevent him from playing hockey with the other kids. He joined his first organized league at the age of five. Willie knew there were no black players in the NHL, but that didn’t stop his dream to one day make it to the big league.

Willie tells the inspirational story about playing hockey on the ponds and outdoor ice surfaces of his maritime home, moving up to the minors, and then getting that long-sought and history-making call up to the NHL on January 18, 1958. Sixty-five years ago this month, Willie was invited to don a Boston Bruins jersey. He later worked as the Director of Youth Hockey Development for NHL Diversity, promoting the inclusive message that “Hockey is for everyone”.

Willie O’Ree received the Order of Canada in 2010 for his contributions to the growth of hockey across communities in Canada and the U.S. In 2018, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame following a nomination campaign that included support from fans, politicians, and current and former NHL players.

Additional honours include receiving the Hockey Legacy Award, an induction into the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame, and the creation of the NHL’s Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award.

Willie O’Ree faced challenges, disappointments, incidents of racial discrimination and setbacks in his journey towards his goal, including losing vision in one eye from a puck in the face – a fact that he kept secret throughout his entire hockey career. Willie: The Game-Changing Story of the NHL’s First Black Player is not just a story of a player breaking the NHL colour barrier but also a frank memoir to be enjoyed for its inspirational message of what can be achieved by following a dream and a tale of a life-long love and dedication to the game.

“We’re thrilled to present Willie as this year’s One Book,” says Danielle Dawe, Adult Services Librarian. “The memoir provides insights into the history of the NHL, racial tensions during the civil rights era, and the personal strength needed to succeed in professional sports. Willie O’Ree changed hockey, and his remarkable story continues to inspire new generations of players.”

Please visit our One Book website page for more information about the One Book, One Halton Hills title and author. To reserve a copy of Willie, please visit our online catalogue.


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