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Willie O'Ree
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Willie O'Ree

The story of the first black player in the NHL

By Nicole Mortillaro

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Series: Lorimer Recordbooks

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Willie O'Ree quietly made NHL history at the Montreal Forum on January 18, 1958, when he became the first black player to take to the ice. In the dressing room before the game, his Boston Bruins teammates told him not to worry. If any one of the Montreal players said anything to him, they'd have his back.

There was a round of applause when O'Ree stepped onto the ice, and newspapers ran the story. The colour barrier in the NHL had been broken, yet it would be sixteen years before the next black player, Mike Marson (also a Canadian), was drafted. Four decades later, the NHL pulled O'Ree out of retirement to honour his achievement and make him an ambassador for the NHL's "Hockey is for Everyone" program to encourage kids from all backgrounds to play hockey.

This new book by Nicole Mortillaro traces the early life of O'Ree in Fredericton, New Brunswick, his journey to the NHL, highlights from his hockey career, and his work encouraging diversity in the NHL.

[Fry reading level - 4.9


Short-listed - 2013-14 Red Cedar (Non Fiction) Award - 2013

Commended - Best Books for Kids & Teens Selection (Canadian Children's Book Centre) - 2013

Commended - One of the Year's Best for 2013 -- Resource Links - 2013

"Willie O'Ree is well-researched. [Mortillaro has made Willie O'Ree's story an engrossing one. Her writing style is easy to read and suitable for young readers." Highly Recommended.

- Thomas F. Chambers CM: Canadian Review of Materials

Featured as a "Book of Interest" in The Seniors' Advocate

- Seniors Advocate

[Mortillaro does paint clear pictures of the sports history and significance, especially in Canada, as well as the racial hostility that ORee braved through much of his playing career.

- John Peters Booklist

NICOLE MORTILLARO is the author of several hockey books for children, including the Recordbooks Something to Prove and Jarome Iginla. She lives in Richmond Hill, Ontario.

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Downloadable Resources


Click the link above to read a sample chapter from the book

Publication Details:

Binding: Paperback, 120 pages
Publication Date: 12th September 2012
ISBN: 9781459401952
Format: 7in x 4.25in

Binding: Hardback, 118 pages
Publication Date: 12th September 2012
ISBN: 9781459401969
Format: 7in x 4.25in

Binding: Electronic book text, 120 pages
Publication Date: 12th September 2012
ISBN: 9781459401983
Format: EPUB

Binding: Electronic book text
Publication Date: 12th September 2012
ISBN: 9781459401976
Format: EPUB

BISAC Code:, JNF007100, JNF025050, JNF054070
Imprint: Lorimer

Interest age: From 12 To 18
Fry Reading Level [grade]: 4.9
Lexile Reading Level: 790L


Similar titles:
Willie O'Ree

Jarome Iginla

Something to Prove

Jarome Iginla

Willie O'Ree

Record Books

Recordbooks Series

Sport biographies highlighting key social issues

Series Website

Series features

  • Ideal for reluctant readers
  • Hi-lo
  • Short chapters, easy-to-read format
  • Great for ESL and adult students
  • Writing with a flair for making history feel like novels
  • Accompanied by historical photos and sports trivia

"Historic photos and short chapters promise to make the book palatable for reluctant readers."
—Quill & Quire

"Kids who like 'infotainment' will be drawn to these books that read like a novel but includes fact boxes, photographs and a glossary." —CM Magazine

Recordbooks are non-fiction stories that help reluctant readers understand history and social issues through the lens of the true story of a sports hero. Showing the process of social change on issues like racism, diversity and conflict, these books engage and provide historical context by telling the often-heroic story of how an athlete or a team worked to change attitudes around them.