Ace Burpee–Humanitarian, humorist, community advocate, media personality, skateboard enthusiast, friend to many, HOCKEY LOVER! The Believe in the Goal Foundation is honored to consider amongst its special friends, Mr. “Ace” Burpee of HOT103 FM. Always at the ready when called upon to emcee or host a B.I.G. event or fundraising activity, Ace is now going public with his “Favourite 34 Hockey Players of All-time!” Come back each week throughout the year for a sneak peek into the mind of a true Canadian hockey afficianado, prognosticator and historian... and soon to be, new GM of the returning Winnipeg Jets!
Willie O'Ree is awesome. The obvious reason why Willie O'Ree is one of my favourites is probably the reason he is most well known. Willie was the first black player in NHL. Ever. Some people say he's the first African-American player in the NHL but that would be false. Willie is Canadian. Very Canadian. He is in fact from Fredericton, New Brunswick, which is why I've always known about him since I was a little kid. My dad is from New Brunswick and went to UNB in Fredericton. If there's an NHLer from New Brunswick, then I like them automatically. Willie was an original. He heard it all on the ice, and from the fans. You can imagine what I mean by "it". One night in 1961 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, O'Ree crashed hard into the end-boards in the defensive zone of the New York Rangers. The wire mesh between the fans and the ice gave way, and the helpless O'Ree was yanked into an angry, drunken mob. Fortunately, he was pulled back onto the ice by his teammates, although by that time he had been showered with beer and taunted ruthlessly. Are you kidding me? Many people remember Willie for breaking the colour barrier... but he did more than that. He should've been out of the game before he even got started. In 1954, while still with the Canadian Juniors, he was struck in the right eye with a puck. He lost 95 percent of his vision in that eye, but he kept right on playing. "I was out of commission for about ten weeks," he remembered in the Los Angeles Times. "I still had another eye. So I switched over from left wing and played right wing for the remainder of my career." How awesome is that? Willie O'Ree rules. He is also a member of the Order of Canada. Rightfully so.