In celebration of Black History Month, the Ottawa Senators, the National Hockey League (NHL) and Black History Ottawa have teamed up to present a unique mobile exhibit that showcases former and current NHL players of colour.
Inside of a large trailer which houses the entire exhibit, every black player in NHL history is represented on a "wall of pucks." The museum also includes hockey gear, games and, because it's in Ottawa, a special tribute to three current and former Senators: Ray Emery, Anthony Duclair and Johnny Oduya.
Willie O'Ree, who became the first black player to suit up for an NHL game in 1958, says the showcase is important for the younger generation to understand what came before them, and to know that if they set their mind to it, they can do anything.
"Goal-setting is very important, you know, set goals for yourself and work toward your goals, and don't let anyone tell you you can't attain your goal. If you feel strongly within your heart and within your mind, it's a big thing," explains the NHL retiree. "If you think you can, you can. If you think you can't, you're right."
The manager of The Griot In Me, a project that aims to archive black community leaders in the capital region, says it was an honour to meet O'Ree on Monday morning.
"People like me and other people, because of Willie O'Ree, we knew that playing in the National Hockey League was possible, even for black people," said Andy. "It's amazing, being able to meet him, and for young people, being able to talk to him, that's a huge opportunity."
Meanwhile, the founder of the group which created the mobile exhibit says he can see the impact that the showcase is having.
"The younger population really responds well to it," says Rodney Reynolds of American Legacy. "We're opening their eyes to a sport they may not have been aware of. So being able to come into a vehicle like this and see the history, and actually have an opportunity, like tofay to meet Willie O'Ree, I don't think they'll ever forget it."
This is the second year that the NHL has driven its mobile history museum to cities across North America in an effort to put a spotlight on its black players. Ottawa is the fifth of 14 stops this year.
The showcase is open until 8 p.m., Monday, and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Tuesday, at the Aberdeen Pavilion.