Breaking Barriers: The NHL’s Willie O’Ree, Documentary Film & Global Discussion on Racial Equality

02/16/2021 02:17 PM EST


Office of the Spokesperson

In celebration of Black History Month, the U.S. Department of State, in partnership with Global Affairs Canada and the National Hockey League (NHL), is pleased to present a global screening of the award-winning documentary “Willie”, which chronicles the life and legacy of Willie O’Ree, the first Black man to play in the NHL. Highlighting O’Ree’s ties to both the United States and Canada, the enduring friendship of our peoples, and the shared love of ice hockey on both sides of the border, U.S. and Canadian missions will collaborate to show the film virtually in more than 35 countries, reflecting a multilateral effort to promote a global discussion on racial equality, justice, and inclusion within culture and sport.

Invited participants will be able to stream the film and join a global Zoom discussion with Mr. O’Ree, Laurence Mathieu-Leger (director and co-producer), Bryant McBride (co-producer), and Blake Bolden, the first Black woman to play in the National Women’s Hockey League and current scout with the NHL’s L.A. Kings. The panel will be moderated by Anson Carter, former NHL player and current hockey analyst for NBC Sports.

The film is set against the backdrop of America’s tumultuous fight to end racial segregation in the dawn of the civil rights movement. Willie O’Ree, born in New Brunswick, Canada, came to Boston to pursue his career in ice hockey, and in doing so, became the first Black player to skate in the National Hockey League. Now, sixty-three years later, Willie serves as the diversity ambassador for the NHL and educates audiences everywhere on his story and the power of sport to break barriers in society.

The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Cultural Programs Division will provide secondary screenings over the next two years, while also supporting the distribution of accompanying social justice curricula for school-aged children around the world. For more information on educational materials, please see the website: .