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Willie O'Ree Gains Hall of Fame Entry

Fred

By Fred Wallace

What of Val James ?


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Hi, this is Fred Wallace with " Off the Wire ".

The Hockey Hall of Fame announced their six inductees for this November, and among those to be inducted will be Willie O'Ree.

O'Ree who played 45 games in the National Hockey League for the Boston Bruins some 60 years ago, is deserving and notable as the "Jackie Robinson of Hockey ", breaking hockey's colour barrier, becoming the first black player to compete in the NHL.

Around his NHL days, O'Ree played Senior or Pro for a quarter of a century and while he was a top scorer, his stats are secondary to the story.

Which brings me back to my Midland roots and a guy who played 2 seasons for the old Midland Flyers in Junior B Hockey.

You might remember the battles between the Flyers and the Owen Sound Greys in the early 70's and if you were there, you'd remember Val James.

Trust me, in Midland, Ontario from 1973-75, Val James stood out. One because he played for the Flyers who were BIG deals in a small town, and two because James was a black American.

From Midland, James carried on and managed to make the NHL, ever so briefly, with both Buffalo & Toronto.

I'm not saying that Val James belongs in the Hockey Hall of Fame, based on his skill level and numbers, he'll need a ticket to get into the Hall of Fame at any time.

But I think there is merit in considering and remembering Val James as noteworthy for being the first African-American to play in the NHL and for being the first player of color with the Leafs.

I'm Fred Wallace


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