EDMONTON — Canada Post is issuing a stamp in commemoration of Willie O’Ree, who became the National Hockey League’s first-ever Black player in 1958.

The unveiling was part of a handful of events surrounding this weekend’s Heritage Classic game featuring the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames. O’Ree was scheduled to be in attendance for the event but instead sent a video thanking Canada Post.


“I’m sorry I can’t be there to celebrate with you in person,” O’Ree said. “But I wanted to express my heartfelt appreciation of this incredible honor. Thank you to the entire Canada Post organization. It is a treasured Canadian institution and being a Canadian stamp is a tremendous honor.”

The stamp features a photo of O’Ree in the present day as well as an older photo from his playing days with the Boston Bruins, using gray, black and yellow as primary colors. It will be in circulation starting Monday, Oct. 30.

“The stamp looks fabulous. They did a really nice job of it. More importantly, Willie deserves it. That’s the beauty of it,” Edmonton Oilers legend Grant Fuhr said.

Fuhr was among a handful of fellow hockey players on hand for the ceremony. Edmonton Oilers forward Evander Kane and Calgary Flames forward Nazem Kadri were present alongside Oilers alumni Anson Carter, Georges Laraque and Andrew Ference, as well as Olympic gold medalist and Professional Women’s Hockey League star Sarah Nurse.

“Without Willie O’Ree, there’s no Georges Laraque, there’s no Anson Carter, none of us are playing in the NHL,” Laraque said. “Somebody had to break the barrier. Breaking the barrier in football, soccer, baseball, is one thing. In hockey, you can still see that today it’s still a huge obstacle to be a Black guy and play hockey.”

O’Ree made his NHL debut on Jan. 18, 1958 with the Bruins in a game against the Montreal Canadiens, becoming the first Black player to ever play in an NHL game. He would play a total of 45 NHL games, all with the Bruins, scoring four goals and 14 points. The Fredericton, N.B., native spent the bulk of his professional career in the minors, playing nearly 800 games in the Western Hockey League in Los Angeles and San Diego.

“I never get sick and tired of talking about Willie O’Ree and the impact that he’s had on myself, other Black players and other players of colour in the National Hockey League current and former,” Carter said.


“Being able to come across him and his story was obviously so impactful. It resonated with me,” Nurse said. “I think that his legacy will live on for generations.”

The 88-year-old has since been named to the Order of Canada, inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and was given a Congressional Gold Medal by current U.S. President Joe Biden.

In 2021, equipment company Bauer created hockey skates in honour of O’Ree, which were eventually worn in games. The following season, NHL teams wore O’Ree decals on their helmets to celebrate the anniversary of his first NHL game which coincided with Martin Luther King Jr. Day. O’Ree also currently serves as a league ambassador.

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(Photo: Julian McKenzie / The Athletic)