Fredericton-born Willie O’Ree made sports and human rights history the moment he donned a Boston Bruins jersey and stepped onto the ice of the Montreal Forum on January 18, 1958. That night, O’Ree became the first black player to play in the National Hockey League (NHL), inspiring generations of hockey players from diverse backgrounds to chase the tantalizing dream of NHL stardom. The Royal Canadian Mint is proud to celebrate this year’s Black History Month by preserving his groundbreaking legacy on a 99.99% pure silver coin, available to the public as of today.
“Diversity and inclusiveness are cherished Canadian values, and it is wonderful to see them come to life every time kids and adults of all backgrounds band together to play Canada’s game,” said Marie Lemay, President and CEO of the Royal Canadian Mint. “Willie O’Ree’s courageous determination to play at the highest level of professional hockey inspired generations of players to carve their own paths as NHL legends. The Mint is delighted to immortalize his special place in history on a skillfully crafted silver coin.”
Called up as a short-term replacement at the time of his historic 1958 NHL debut, O’Ree played 43 more games for the Boston Bruins during the 1960-61 season. He scored four goals and 10 assists while enduring racist taunts by opposing players and fans. Traded to the Montreal Canadiens, O’Ree played 14 seasons in the minors before calling it a career in 1979.
O’Ree returned to the NHL in 1998 as an ambassador for diversity, a role he continues to serve today. He inspired the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award and received both the Order of Canada and the Order of New Brunswick. O’Ree’s induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018, recognizes his far-reaching impact on the game.
“I am humbled and beyond grateful to have my image displayed on the Canadian silver coin,” said O’Ree.
The reverse design of the 2020 $20 Fine Silver Coin – Black History Month: Willie O’Ree features an engraved player portrait of Hockey Hall of Famer Willie O’Ree. His signature appears above his jersey number (22), while the Boston Bruins team logo forms a repeating field pattern. The obverse features the effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II by Susanna Blunt.
Limited to a mintage of 5,500, the Willie O’Ree fine silver coin retails for $99.95 CAD. It can be ordered by contacting the Mint at 1-800-267-1871 in Canada, 1-800-268-6468 in the US, or on the Mint’s web site. The coins are also available at Royal Canadian Mint boutiques in Ottawa and Winnipeg, as well as through our global network of dealers and distributors, including participating Canada Post outlets.
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About the Royal Canadian Mint
The Royal Canadian Mint (RCM) is the Crown corporation responsible for the minting and distribution of Canada’s circulation coins. The Mint is recognized as one of the largest and most versatile mints in the world, offering a wide range of specialized, high quality coinage products and related services on an international scale. For more information on the Mint, its products and services, visit www.mint.ca.
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