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Willie cover art

Willie

Written by: Willie O'Ree,Michael McKinley,Jarome Iginla - foreword
Narrated by: Everett Fitzhugh
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Publisher's Summary

An inspiring memoir that shows that anyone can achieve their dreams if they are willing to fight for them.

In 1958, Willie O'Ree was a lot like any other player toiling in the minors. He was good. Good enough to have been signed by the Boston Bruins. Just not quite good enough to play in the NHL.

Until January 18 of that year. O'Ree was finally called up, and when he stepped out onto the ice against the Montreal Canadiens, not only did he fulfill the childhood dream he shared with so many other Canadian kids, he did something that had never been done before.

He broke hockey's color barrier. Just as his hero, Jackie Robinson, had done for baseball.

In that pioneering first NHL game, O'Ree proved that no one could stop him from being a hockey player. But he soon learned that he could never be just a hockey player. He would always be a Black player, with all that entails. There were ugly name-calling and stick-swinging incidents and nights when the Bruins had to be escorted to their bus by the police.

But O'Ree never backed down. When he retired in 1979, he had played hundreds of games as a pro and scored hundreds of goals, his boyhood dreams more than accomplished.

In 2018, O'Ree was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in recognition not only of that legacy, but of the way he has built on it in the decades since. He has been, for 20 years now, an NHL executive and has helped the NHL Diversity program expose more than 40,000 boys and girls of diverse backgrounds to unique hockey experiences.

Inspiring, frank, and shot through with the kind of understated courage and decency required to change the world, Willie is a story for anyone willing to persevere for a dream.

©2020 Willie O'Ree and Michael McKinley (P)2020 Penguin Random House Canada

What the critics say

Nominated for the 2021 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work – Biography/Autobiography

“For every single kid who was ever told to ‘stick to basketball,’ Willie was like the first man on the moon. He wasn’t just a hockey player. He was an astronaut.”
—Wayne Simmonds, player, Buffalo Sabres 

“Now, more than ever, is the right time for Willie O’Ree to tell his story in full. Having played in the league in the footsteps of guys like Tony McKegney, Val James, Bill Riley, and Mike Marson, I know that if you don't have someone who leads the way, maybe you don't look in that direction. Kids need to know that they can do anything, and no one shows that better than Willie.”
—Grant Fuhr, five-time Stanley Cup winner and member of the Hockey Hall of Fame

“Willie O’Ree stood for something more than just being a black hockey player who broke the colour barrier. He represents that no matter what colour you are, what race, or what gender, you could do anything if you believe in yourself. Willie raised the glass ceiling for the entire sport and the ripple effect of his accomplishments are still felt today.”
—PK Subban, Norris Trophy winner, NHL All-Star, and philanthropist

Featured Article: Top 13 Canadian Sports Players of All Time

Sid the Kid, The Great One, Burkie and more are waiting in this selection of amazing audiobooks paying homage to Canada’s great sporting heroes.

What listeners say about Willie

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A must read for Canadian Hockey Fans

An amazing story. Unfortunately the narration was painfully done but the story itself deserves the effort to accept the "robot" voice. Would be worth it to just read this book.

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What a great story!

As a Canadian kid who grew up loving hockey, I really had no idea of the difficulty that a black kid/man would have to endure en route to achieving his dream of playing pro hockey. I enjoyed every minute of Willie’s story. I’m proud of the work he has done as a player and builder at exposing the game to so many. I heard Wayne Simmonds say prior to the 20-21 season “if people can’t see it, they can’t be it” and man oh man is that ever true. I can’t wait to share the story with my 3 kids. My girls both play, but it’s still hard for them to see pro hockey players and believe that they have a shot. Willie may not have realized what he had done at the time, but I’m so glad that he eventually did and that he’s been role modelling ever since. Thank you!

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  • Donald Van Fossan
  • 2023-06-30

It’s good

The book was by willie so you get a firsthand source so he tells you the truth

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  • Guido-B
  • 2022-11-09

Fantastic story and narration

This is an amazing story that transcends hockey. It is a tale of humanity and, in some respects, inhumanity. The beauty is Willie’s ability to stand tall through inhumanity.

And I go could on about the narrator, Everett Fitzhugh, who is a pioneer in his own right, and a treasured friend.

Team Willie!

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  • 9FEB
  • 2022-01-31

Great Story

Definitely an inspirational story about one of my favorite hockey players of all time. So much I didn’t know about this gentleman but glad I did

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  • Amber
  • 2021-02-08

Awesome

Loved the story and Everett did an awesome job. Hockey fan or not, this book is a must.

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