Stamp of Willie O’Ree. (CNW Group/Canada Post)
The first Black hockey player in the National Hockey League (NHL) is being honoured with a stamp by Canada Post.
A stamp featuring Canadian Willie O’Ree was unveiled at an event in Edmonton on Saturday as part of the 2023 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic weekend festivities.
“It’s hard to believe I have my own stamp. I couldn’t imagine when I first started playing that any of these things were possible. I just wanted to be the best hockey player I could be,” O’Ree wrote in a letter published on the same day the stamp was unveiled.
O’Ree made history when he played for the Boston Bruins against the Montreal Canadiens on January 18, 1958, at the Montréal Forum- marking the first Black player to play for the league.
The stamp displays a recent picture of O’Ree wearing his signature fedora and an inset photo of him skating in 1960.
“The stamp issue is cancelled in Fredericton, New Brunswick, where O’Ree was born and raised. Printed by Colour Innovations, the stamp issue includes a booklet of six Permanent™ domestic rate stamps and an Official First Day Cover,” according to a press release from Canada Post.
The stamp was designed in black and yellow to mirror his uniform colours while playing with the Bruins between 1958 and 1961.
In his letter, O’Ree said he is thankful that his legacy will carry on with this new stamp.
“When I got the call from Canada Post, I was at a loss for words. Five days a week, I meet with a group of friends in the mornings. We drink coffee and catch each other up on our lives. When I told them about the stamp they couldn’t believe it either. ‘You have the Order of Canada, a coin from the [Royal Canadian] Mint, and now your very own stamp!?’ they said,’ O’Ree wrote.
“I enjoyed being involved in the process of creating the stamp. My wife, my daughter and I looked over different photos and design options before helping to select the right one. The whole process was a thrill for us all,” he added.
In 2018, O’Ree was inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame for his advocacy work on and off the ice. The NHL has even created the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award in his honour.
The stamp and collectible is now available for purchase at post offices and for pre-order at store.canadapost.ca.