BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — A score of youth hockey players gathered at Boston's Agganis Arena to take part in the NHL's Willie O'Ree Skills Weekend.
Boys and girls from cities across the country participated in the event as part of the NHL's Hockey Is For Everyone program, a nationwide effort to get kids in the inner city playing hockey. The kids learned hockey skills both on and off the ice.
"Without these programs, the inner city kids wouldn’t be able to participate," said Robert Ayala, a hockey coach from Detroit.
The event is named after Willie O'Ree, the first black player in NHL history. He made his debut for the Boston Bruins in 1958 and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in November 2018.
"He went through a lot being the first black player in the NHL," said Ayala. "He opened a lot of doors for a lot of us. For all people, really."
"We have a lot of black players," said Janie Thomas from New Jersey. "They can actually see somebody that looks exactly like them and see what he did in hockey, and understand that they can go further and that the opportunity is becoming bigger and bigger."
A number of groups helped make the weekend possible, including Score Boston, a non-profit which provides equipment, ice time, and coaching for kids who otherwise might never strap on a pair of skates.
WBZ's Carl Stevens (@CarlWBZ) reports.