John Saunders over at ESPN sat down with trailblazer Willie O'Ree, the first black man to play in the National Hockey League, and current superstar P.K. Subban, to discuss some of the challenges they've faced.
O'Ree, a New Brunswick native, is known as the Jackie Robinson of hockey. He broke down barriers by joining the Boston Bruins for two games in 1957, and an additional 43 games in 1961.
As you would expect for the era, O'Ree had to face a deluge of prejudice, bigotry, and racist remarks. Most of these people had never seen a black man on the ice. O'Ree explains:
"Racist remakrs were much worse in the U.S. cities than in Toronto and Montreal. Fans would yell 'Go back to the South' and 'How come you're not picking cotton?' Things like that. It didn't bother me. I just wanted to be a hockey player, and if they couldn't accept that fact, that was their problem, not mine."
Subban, well aware that O'Ree paved the way, noted "I wouldn't be in the NHL if it wasn't for Mr. O'Ree. It's fortunate I don't have to go through that. Part of the reason is that he took one for the team."
Here's the video (click here if the embed isn't working on your browser):