Transcript: Willie O'Ree: Documenting an NHL trailblazer | May 08, 2019

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a gray suit, white shirt, and gray tie.

A caption on screen reads "Documenting an NHL trailblazer. @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says IF HOCKEY IS CANADA'S
GAME, WILLIE O'REE IS A
TRAILBLAZER WHO SHOULD BE A
HOUSEHOLD NAME.
IN 1958, HE BECAME THE FIRST
BLACK HOCKEY PLAYER TO HIT THE
ICE IN AN NHL GAME - WEARING A
BOSTON BRUINS UNIFORM IN A GAME
AT THE FABLED MONTREAL FORUM
AGAINST THE CANADIENS.
A NEW DOCUMENTARY, SIMPLY TITLED
"WILLIE," CHRONICLES HIS JOURNEY
AND WHAT IT TOOK TO BREAK THE
COLOUR BARRIER MORE THAN 60
YEARS AGO.
JOINING US NOW FOR MORE ON THE
MAN AND THE FILM, DIRECTOR,
PRODUCER AND CINEMATOGRAPHER,
LAURENCE MATHIEU-LEGER.

Laurence is in her late thirties, with long wavy brown hair. She's wearing glasses and a white shirt.

Steve continues IT'S SO GREAT TO HAVE YOU HERE.

Laurence says THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

Steve says NOT AT ALL.
SHALL WE SEE A LITTLE BIT OF
YOUR WORK BEFORE WE TALK?

Laurence says LET'S DO IT.

Steve says THIS IS ME DIRECTING NOW.
SHELDON, THE CLIP, S'IL VOUS PLAIS?

A black and white clip plays on screen with the caption "Willie."
In the clip, a white man in his late forties interviews a black man in his twenties who wears a hockey jersey.

The interviewer says IN TERMS OF THIS BUSINESS OF BEING THE JACKIE ROBINSON OF
HOCKEY, HAVE YOU HAD ANY TROUBLES?

Fast clips show scenes of police beating black men.

A male announcer says WILLIE O'REE OF THE BOSTON
BRUINS IS THE FIRST NEGRO TO
PLAY IN THE NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE.

Fast clips show hockey players wearing gear.

A male voice says SIX YEARS AGO, WILLIE O'REE
BROKE THE COLOUR BARRIER IN
PROFESSIONAL HOCKEY.
HE CHANGED THE GAME FOREVER.

An elderly man and woman sit in a living room with a lakeview.

The woman says WHY DON'T WE HAVE WILLIE
O'REE IN THE HOCKEY HALL OF FAME?

A young black man says I HAD MY OPPORTUNITY BECAUSE
OF PEOPLE LIKE WILLIE O'REE.

An elderly man at a shop says HE WAS BLIND IN ONE EYE.

A man in his late forties says I PLAYED WITH A LOT OF GUYS
WHO WEREN'T VERY GOOD WHO HAD
TWO EYES

He laughs.

An elderly man traveling by car says
I REMEMBER SITTING IN THE
PENALTY BOX AND YOU COULD HEAR
THE RACIAL SLURS.

A young woman says SOMEONE CALLED ME THE "N" WORD ON THE ICE.

A young man says I DON'T ACCEPT THAT.

A sports commentator yells SCORES!

Fast clips show a team winning, then a newspaper headline that reads "First negro reaches NHL."

A man in a room with pictures of sports teams says WILLIE IS A HERO.
HE'S A HOCKEY HERO.

The clip ends.
The caption changes to "tvo.org/theagenda; agendaconnect@tvo.org."

Steve says IT TOOK US A LONG
TIME TO APPRECIATE THIS HOCKEY
HERO BECAUSE HE LIVED IN KIND OF
ANONYMITY FOR A LONG TIME.
SO LET'S TELL A BIT OF HIS
STORY.
WILLIE, FROM A VERY EARLY AGE,
APPARENTLY, SAID, "I WANT TO
PLAY IN THE NHL," DESPITE THE
FACT THAT THERE WERE NO OTHER
BLACK PLAYERS IN THE NHL.
WHERE DID THAT COME FROM?

The caption changes to "Laurence Mathieu-Leger. Director, 'Willie.'"
Then, it changes again to "Breaking the colour barrier."

Laurence says YOU KNOW, WILLIE STARTED
SKATING WHEN HE WAS ABOUT THREE
YEARS OLD.
HE'S FROM FREDERICTON, NEW
BRUNSWICK, WHERE HOCKEY IS
LITERALLY A PART OF THE CULTURE.
IT'S WINTER FOR A VERY LONG TIME
OVER THERE, AS YOU MAY KNOW.
WHEN HE WAS 14 HE MADE A PROMISE
TO HIMSELF THAT HE WOULD PLAY
PROFESSIONAL HOCKEY AND PLAY IN
THE NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE.
HE SAYS THIS STORY OFTEN, BUT IT
WAS INCREDIBLE TO BELIEVE THAT
AT THE TIME BECAUSE THERE WERE
NO BLACK HOCKEY PLAYERS IN THE
NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE.
THERE WERE BLACK HOCKEY PLAYERS
IN OTHER LEAGUES, IN QUEBEC, FOR
EXAMPLE, WITH HERB CARNEGIE.
FOR HIM TO HAVE THIS DREAM, IT
WAS INCREDIBLE.

Steve says EVEN MORE INCREDIBLE
WAS THE FACT DURING ONE MINOR
HOCKEY LEAGUE GAME, HE HAD AN
EYE PUT OUT.
HE PLAYED IN THE NHL WITH ONE EYE!
HOW DOES ONE DO THAT?

The caption changes to "Laurence Mathieu-Leger. Producer, 'Willie.'"

A black and white picture pinned to a wall shows a hockey team posing on the ice.

Laurence says WELL, LISTEN, WILLIE BECAME
BLIND IN 1956 IN AN INCIDENT
THAT HAPPENED IN KITCHENER, ONTARIO.
EVERYONE KIND OF THOUGHT IT WAS
JUST A RANDOM ACCIDENT AND THE
DOCTOR TOLD HIM THAT HE'D BE
BLIND IN ONE EYE AND NEVER PLAY
HOCKEY AGAIN, AND WILLIE, YOU
KNOW, HAD A DESIRE THAT HE
WANTED TO ACCOMPLISH AND HE KNEW
THAT IF HE WOULD TELL ANYONE
THAT IT WOULD NOT COME TRUE, AND
SO HE KEPT IT A SECRET AND NEVER
TOLD ANYONE, WENT BACK ON THE
ICE AND MADE THE NATIONAL HOCKEY
LEAGUE.

Steve says AND SOMEHOW MANAGED
TO DO IT.

Laurence says RIGHT.

Steve says I WANT TO READ
SOMETHING FROM WAYNE SIMMONDS
WHO USED TO PLAY WITH THE
PHILADELPHIA FLYERS, HE'S AN
ONTARIO GUY, NOW WITH THE
NASHVILLE PREDS, AND HE HAD THIS
TO SAY ABOUT WILLIE IN THE
PLAYERS TRIBUNE.
HE SAID...

A quote appears on screen, under the title "Paving the way for black hockey players." The quote reads "My parents started teaching me about Willie O'Ree, the first black player to play in the NHL. It was one of the most important history lessons of my life.
Without Willie, there would be no Jarome Iginla. There would be no Grant Fuhr, or P.K. Subban or Ray Emery or Dustin Byfuglien or so many others who have had the honor of playing in this great league. There would definitely be no Wayne Simmonds.
None of it ever would've happened without Mr. O'Ree opening the door -not just for me, but for every black hockey player with a dream."
Quoted from Wayne Simmonds, The Players Tribune. April 9, 2018.

Steve says DOES WILLIE GET THAT?

Laurence says I MEAN, ABSOLUTELY.
AND TO BE CLEAR, IT TOOK 16
YEARS BEFORE THERE WAS ANOTHER
BLACK PLAYER IN THE NATIONAL
HOCKEY LEAGUE, SO IT'S NOT LIKE
WILLIE ARRIVED AND THEN SUDDENLY
BLACK PLAYERS FLOODED IN.
IT TOOK A LONG TIME.
AND, YOU KNOW, IT'S NOT JUST
WILLIE BREAKING THAT BARRIER.
WILLIE, FOR THE PAST 22 YEARS,
HAS BEEN A DIVERSITY AMBASSADOR
IN THE NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE
AND HE TRAVELS ACROSS NORTH
AMERICA AND TALKS TO YOUNG BOYS
AND GIRLS ABOUT HIS EXPERIENCE
AND INSPIRES THEM.
AND SO I REALLY THINK THAT
WILLIE IS AWARE THAT HIS MESSAGE
IS IMPORTANT AND HAS SOME
POSITIVE REPERCUSSION ON THE
GAME AND ON SOCIETY AS WELL
BECAUSE IT'S NOT JUST IN HOCKEY
THAT THERE'S AN ISSUE WITH
DIVERSITY OR RACISM, YOU KNOW,
AND HIS WORK IS FROM HOCKEY
OUTWARDS, AND A LOT OF PLAYERS
SEE WILLIE AS THE PIONEER AND
THEY WANT TO CARRY HIS LEGACY
AND HONOUR IT.

Steve says I WANT TO MAKE THE
COMPARISON TO BASEBALL.
HE MET JACKIE ROBINSON A COUPLE
OF TIMES.

Laurence says RIGHT.

Steve says YOU'VE GOT THIS
WONDERFUL STORY IN THE MOVIE
WHERE HE TALKS ABOUT MEETING
JACKIE AND MEETING HIM YEARS
LATER AND JACKIE REMEMBERED.

Laurence says RIGHT.

A black and white picture shows a black baseball player sitting outside a field wearing a Dodgers jersey.

Steve says JACKIE BROKE IN IN
'47, BUT THREE MONTHS LATER,
THERE WAS A SECOND BLACK PLAYER,
LARRY DOBY, WITH CLEVELAND.
YOU POINT OUT IT WAS A DECADE
AND A HALF BEFORE THE NHL HAD
ITS SECOND BLACK PLAYER, MARK
MARSON, WHO WAS IN THAT CHAIR A
COUPLE OF YEARS AGO.
WHY DO YOU THINK IT TOOK THE NHL
SO LONG TO HAVE NO. 2?

Laurence says I THINK THERE ARE A NUMBER OF
DIFFERENT REASONS.
HOCKEY IS NOT A SPORT THAT IS
ACCESSIBLE TO A LOT OF PEOPLE.

Steve says IT'S EXPENSIVE TO
PLAY.

The caption changes to "Laurence Mathieu-Leger, @willieoreedoc."

Laurence says RIGHT.
AND IT'S ALSO A SPORT THAT'S
PRIMARILY PLAYED IN CANADA.
IN THOSE DAYS, IN THE NORTHERN
PARTS OF THE U.S.
SO IN TERMS OF ACCESSIBILITY, I
THINK POTENTIALLY NOT A LOT OF
BLACK PLAYERS HAD ACCESS TO THE
GAME.
NOW, WHY DID IT TAKE SO LONG?
YOU KNOW, I THINK PEOPLE
ASSOCIATE HOCKEY AS A WHITE
MAN'S SPORT.
I'M SURE THERE WERE A TON OF
OTHER BARRIERS THAT MADE IT
DIFFICULT BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, I
ALWAYS SAY, FOR EVERY RACIST ACT
THAT YOU HEAR ON THE NEWS,
THERE'S A LOT MORE, THOUSANDS
THAT YOU NEVER HEAR ABOUT.
SO WHO KNOWS?
MAYBE THERE WERE OTHER
INCREDIBLE BLACK PLAYERS OUT
THERE AFTER WILLIE THAT DIDN'T
GET A CHANCE BECAUSE NO ONE
WANTED TO GIVE THEM A CHANCE,
AND THAT'S A REAL POSSIBILITY.

Steve says JACKIE ROBINSON'S
STORY HAS BEEN WELL-TOLD MANY
TIMES OVER, AS IT SHOULD BE, AND
HIS TRAVAILS WERE WELL-KNOWN,
THE KIND OF RACISM HE FACED.
DID WILLIE FACE SIMILAR STUFF
COMING UP INTO THE NHL?

Laurence says ABSOLUTELY.
WHEN HE CAME INTO THE NHL, IT
WAS 1958.
FOR MANY CANADIANS WHO MAY NOT
BE FAMILIAR WITH WHAT WAS
HAPPENING IN THE UNITED STATES
AT THE TIME, IT WAS KIND OF THE
END OF JIM CROW, WHICH WAS
SEGREGATION BY LAW, AND ALSO A
TIME OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS
MOVEMENT WAS COMING TOGETHER IN
A BIG WAY, AND THERE WAS A LOT
OF RACIAL TENSION.
SO WHAT WILLIE HAD TO FACE IN
TERMS OF CLIMATE WAS PRETTY
INTENSE, AND ALSO, LIKE,
DISCRIMINATION ALSO EXISTED IN
CANADA, EVEN THOUGH JIM CROW WAS
NOT IN PLACE.
I THINK THERE WAS A TON OF
BARRIERS THAT HE HAD TO PUSH
THROUGH AND FOR A LOT OF US IT'S
HARD FOR US TO UNDERSTAND.
AND HE WAS FOCUSED.
HE WAS FOCUSED AND HE MADE IT
AND WE REALLY HIGHLIGHT THAT IN
THE FILM IN A BIG WAY.

Steve says YOU'RE FROM MONTREAL?

Laurence says I GREW UP IN MONTREAL.

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live."

Steve says JACKIE ROBINSON
PLAYED HIS MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
IN MONTREAL AND HE SAID HE WAS
GLAD HE DID BECAUSE HE THOUGHT
MONTREAL WAS A MUCH LESS RACIST
CITY THAN MANY OF THE CITIES IN
THE STATES HE PLAYED.
HE TALKED ABOUT AN INCIDENT,
1961, WITH A PLAYER WITH THE
CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS.
LET'S PLAY A CLIP OF THAT AND
COME BACK AND CHAT.
I'M GOING TO BE DOING SOME
DIRECTING.
THIS IS EXCITING TO DIRECT IN
FRONT OF A DIRECTOR.
SHELDON, IF YOU WOULD, PLEASE?

A clip plays on screen with the caption "Willie."
In the clip, Willie O'Ree sits on a couch and talks. He's in his early eighties, clean-shaven and bald.

He says HE MADE A COUPLE RACIAL
REMARKS AND COMES OUT FROM MY
BLIND SIDE AND I CAN'T SEE HIM
AND HE HOLDS ABOUT 6 INCHES OF
HIS STICK AND HE BUTT-ENDS ME IN
THE MOUTH AND SPLITS MY NOSE,
SPLITS MY LIP, AND KNOCKS MY TWO
FRONT TEETH OUT.
HE JUST STOOD THERE AND LAUGHED.

Grainy black and white footage shows a brawl on an ice rink.

The clip ends.

Steve says NOW, BRANCH RICKEY
ALWAYS TOLD JACKIE ROBINSON, I
WANT A PLAYER WHO IS TOUGH
ENOUGH NOT TO FIGHT BACK.
DO YOU KNOW WHETHER WILLIE'S
PREFERRED APPROACH WAS TO DO THE
SAME OR WHETHER IT WAS TO BEAT
THE OTHER GUY'S BRAINS IN?

Laurence says SO WILLIE OFTEN SAID THAT IF HE WOULD ANSWER TO EVERY RACIAL
REMARK, HE WOULD HAVE BEEN IN
THE PENALTY BOX EVERY TIME.
AND, YOU KNOW, FOR WILLIE, I
MEAN, IN SITUATIONS LIKE THAT,
HE WOULD FIGHT BACK.
HE SAID IF SOMEONE WOULD ASSAULT
HIM PHYSICALLY, HE WOULD FIGHT
BACK.
BUT THEN HE COULDN'T FIGHT BACK
EVERYTHING THAT PEOPLE WOULD SAY
TO HIM.
OTHERWISE, HE WOULDN'T PLAY.
YOU KNOW, WE'VE HEARD SOME
COMMENTS FROM PEOPLE WHO WATCH
THE FILM SAYING, "WHY DIDN'T
WILLIE FIGHT BACK MORE?"
I MEAN, THIS IS WILLIE'S
MESSAGE: IF YOU LISTEN TO
EVERYTHING THAT COMES TO YOU,
THEN YOU WON'T GET TO YOUR END
GOAL.
AND SO... AND ALSO AT THE TIME,
YOU KNOW, THERE WAS SO MANY
PRESSURES COMING FROM WHITE
VIEWERS... WHITE AUDIENCES, THAT
WILLIE COULDN'T FOCUS ALL HIS
ENERGY ON THAT.
HE HAD TO PLAY HOCKEY AND THAT'S
WHY HE SUCCEEDED.
NOW, THAT MIGHT NOT BE TRUE
TODAY BECAUSE NOW THE NHL... YOU
KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO DEVANTE
SMITH-PELLY, AS SOON AS LIKE THE
CROWD THAT WAS, YOU KNOW,
YELLING RACIAL SLURS AT HIM WERE
POINTED OUT, THEY WERE EJECTED
FROM THE STADIUM...

Steve says WE SHOULD SAY.
THAT WAS IN CHICAGO.
SMITH-PELLEY IS AN ONTARIO KID
TOO.

Laurence says EXACTLY.

Steve says HE'S WITH THE
WASHINGTON CAPITALS.
THERE'S THE HEADLINE FROM THE
ONLINE SERVICE AS IT CAME OUT.
HE GOT THE LAST LAUGH.
HE HOISTED THE STANLEY CUP OVER
HIS HEAD LAST YEAR.

A New York Times website screenshot shows an article titled "Devante Smith-Pelly of Capitals calls racial taunts in Chicago 'Disgusting.'"

Laurence says HE DID.
WE USED THE STORY AS A MODERN
STORY OF RESILIENCE AND
PERSEVERANCE.
BUT, YOU KNOW, IN DEVANTE
SMITH-PELLY'S CASE, THE NHL
ACTED IMMEDIATELY.
THERE WAS IMMEDIATE SUPPORT AND
PLAYERS FROM ALL OVER THE LEAGUE
SAID IT'S UNACCEPTABLE.
BACK IN WILLIE'S DAY, YOU KNOW,
I THINK RACIAL EVENTS LIKE THE
ONES WILLIE FACED WERE NOT
IMMEDIATELY ADDRESSED, AND I
THINK THAT SPEAKS TO THE TIME
WE'RE IN.
THERE'S BEEN SOME PROGRESS, BUT
THERE'S A LONG WAY TO GO.

Steve says I'M GLAD YOU SAID
THE LAST PART.
YOU WANT TO BRING THIS ONE UP,
SHELDON.
HERE IS PIC 12.
THIS HAPPENED IN QUEBEC EARLIER
THIS YEAR.

A CBC website screenshot shows an article titled "Quebec hockey player and his family taunted by racist fans."

Steve continues A QUEBEC HOCKEY PLAYER AND HIS
FAMILY TAUNTED BY RACIST FANS,
THE "N" WORD USED, COMPARISONS
TO BABOONS.
THE PLAYER'S FAMILY WAS FORCED
TO LEAVE THE GAME BECAUSE OF ALL
OF THAT UNWANTED ATTENTION.
YOU KNOW, WE DO HAVE A LONG WAY
TO GO STILL, DON'T WE?

The caption changes to "Racism in hockey today."

Laurence says YOU KNOW, IT'S INTERESTING
BECAUSE THIS EVENT RIGHT HERE,
WHEN I WATCH IT, I FIND IT
DISGUSTING, OBVIOUSLY.
BUT WHAT BOTHERS ME MOST IS NOT
REALLY THAT ONE GUY WHO IS
TAUNTING THE PLAYER.
IT'S EVERYONE WHO IS KIND OF
SITTING THERE AND SAYING
NOTHING.
I LIKE TO SAY, YOU KNOW,
ESPECIALLY AS WHITE PEOPLE AND
WHITE PRIVILEGED PEOPLE, OUR
ROLE IS TO STAND UP, AND YOU
CAN'T BE SILENT BECAUSE YOU'RE
AIDING AND ABETTING.
AND I THINK THAT THE MESSAGE IN
THE FILM, YOU KNOW, WILLIE HAS A
TON OF WHITE FRIENDS THAT
SUPPORT HIM AND HELP HIM TO GET
TO THE HOCKEY HALL OF FAME, AND
THEY LOVE HIM, AND THEY
ACKNOWLEDGE THAT RACISM IS STILL
REAL AND STILL GOING ON.
IN THE FILM WE SEE THEM AS
ALLIES.
THAT'S AN IMPORTANT WORD.
AND I THINK OUR ROLE, TO MAKE A
CHANGE, NOT JUST IN HOCKEY BUT
IN SOCIETY, IS NOT TO JUST STAND
BY AND SAY NOTHING.
YOU MIGHT SAY I'M NOT A RACIST.
BUT AS LONG AS WE STAY SILENT,
THESE THINGS ARE GOING TO KEEP
HAPPENING.

Steve says SHELDON, LET'S SHOW
A FEW PICTURES.
PIC 4 WILLIE WITH THE QUEBEC
ACES.
JEAN BELIVEAU PLAYED WITH THE
QUEBEC ACES.
THERE HE IS THERE.
BOY, HE'S A GOOD-LOOKING HOCKEY
PLAYER...

A black and white picture shows a hockey player in his twenties smiling as he poses on the ice with a stick.

Laurence says JEAN BELIVEAU PLAYED WITH
HERB CARNEGIE.

Steve says WE HAVE A SHOT OF
THAT NEXT.
PUT UP HERB CARNEGIE.
THIS IS NO. 10.
IS THIS THE SHERBROOKE TEAM?
WHAT'S IT CALLED?
I FORGET NOW.
ANYWAY...

In a picture, three hockey players pose smiling, in full gear, on the ice.

Laurence says THE BLACK LINE.

Steve says THEY CALLED THEM THE
BLACK LINE.

Laurence says RIGHT.

Steve says HERB CARNEGIE, WHO
ACTUALLY WAS THE FIRST GUY ON
ICE, I THINK, THE FIRST BLACK
MAN ON ICE, BUT HE DIDN'T PLAY
IN THE NHL.
AND THEN LET'S DO ONE MORE.
HERE IS THE QUEBEC ACES.

Another black and white picture shows one of the players seen before, smiling.

Steve continues THAT'S HERB CARNEGIE AGAIN.
HERB CARNEGIE REALLY NEEDS HIS
DUE.
I DON'T KNOW IF YOU'RE GOING TO
MAKE ANOTHER FILM.
HE NEEDS HIS DUE AS WELL AS A
SIGNIFICANT PERSON.

Laurence says HE REALLY DOES.
WE TALK ABOUT HIS STORY A BIT IN
THE FILM BECAUSE IT'S IMPORTANT,
BUT THERE'S A MUCH BIGGER STORY
IN HERB CARNEGIE'S STORY, AND
IT'S BEEN TOUCHED ON IN SHORTER
DOCUMENTARIES ON THE CBC AND
WHATNOT.
BUT, YOU KNOW, HERB DIDN'T GET A
SHOT TO PLAY IN THE NHL FOR
RACIAL REASONS, AND I THINK
THERE'S ANOTHER STORY TO TELL
HERE BECAUSE HE WAS AN
INCREDIBLE PLAYER AND HE LEFT A
LASTING LEGACY AND WILLIE SEES
HIM AS ONE OF HIS HEROS, REALLY.

Steve says NOW, WILLIE PLAYED
PROFESSIONAL HOCKEY.

Laurence says RIGHT.

Steve says INTO HIS 40s.

Laurence says RIGHT.

Steve says HE HAD A LONG RUN.
BUT HE DIDN'T PLAY THAT LONG IN
THE NHL.
DO YOU KNOW WHY THAT WAS THE CASE?

Laurence says WELL, YOU KNOW, I MEAN, AT
THE TIME THERE WAS ONLY SIX
TEAMS AND NOT A LOT OF JOBS.
YOU KNOW, WILLIE WAS AN AMAZING
PLAYER AND WE HAVE TO REMEMBER
HE WAS BLIND IN ONE EYE AND THAT
LIMITED HIM, AND HE STILL WAS
ABLE TO GO IN THE NHL, SCORE
SOME GOALS.
NOW, WHEN WILLIE GOT TRADED IN
1961, I BELIEVE, HE GOT TRADED
TO THE MONTREAL CANADIENS, AND
THEN HE NEVER REALLY PLAYED.
YOU KNOW, IT WASN'T UP TO HIM.
AND AGAIN AT THE TIME THERE WAS
ONLY SIX TEAMS.
SO A LOT OF THE OTHER TEAMS AND
THE OTHER LEAGUES ENDED UP BEING
PART OF THE NHL ANYWAYS LATER ON
DOWN THE ROAD.
BUT NEVERTHELESS, HE HAD AN
EXTREMELY LONG AND PROLIFIC
CAREER.
HE BROKE SOME SCORING RECORDS IN
SOME OF THE OTHER LEAGUES
DESPITE HIS DISABILITY OF BEING
BLIND IN ONE EYE AND PLAYED WELL
IN HIS 40s AND WAS ABSOLUTELY
LOVED ON THE WEST COAST WHERE HE
MADE A LASTING IMPRESSION AND
HIS JERSEY WAS RETIRED IN SAN
DIEGO.

Steve says HMM.
WILLIE IS IN THE HALL OF FAME.

Laurence says RIGHT.

Steve says IT TOOK A LONG TIME
TO GET WILLIE IN THE HALL OF
FAME, BUT WILLIE IS IN THE HALL
OF FAME RIGHT NOW.
IS OBVIOUSLY ONE OF THE PIONEERS
AND BUILDERS IN THE GAME.
WHAT DID THAT MEAN TO HIM?

The caption changes to "The work's not over."

Laurence says YOU KNOW, I THINK WILLIE
DIDN'T ANTICIPATE IMMEDIATELY TO
GO INTO THE HALL OF FAME BECAUSE
A LOT OF PEOPLE SAY, OH, HE'S
ONLY PLAYED 45 GAMES.
FIRST OF ALL, THE FACT HE BROKE
THE COLOUR BARRIER SHOULD
QUALIFY HIM IMMEDIATELY ANYWAYS.
BUT THERE'S THIS, YOU KNOW,
THESE WERE THE ARGUMENTS AGAINST
HIM GOING INTO THE HALL.
NOW, WILLIE DID PLAY 22 YEARS OF
PROFESSIONAL HOCKEY AND THEN WAS
KIND OF FORGOTTEN AND DID OTHER
JOBS.
WHEN HE RETURNED TO THE NHL, HIS
IMPACT HAS BEEN INCREDIBLE ON
THE GAME, AND WHEN THERE WAS
SOME TALK THAT HE MIGHT GO INTO
THE HALL, I THINK HE... HE
DIDN'T WANT TO BELIEVE IT
BECAUSE HE DIDN'T WANT TO BE
DISAPPOINTED.
BUT, YOU KNOW, EVERYONE AGREES
THAT IT TOOK WAY TOO LONG FOR
HIM TO GET IN.
I HAD THE OPPORTUNITY AND THE
PRIVILEGE TO BE WITH HIM THE DAY
HE GOT THE CALL AND WE AT ONE
POINT THOUGHT WE WEREN'T GOING
TO GET THE CALL BECAUSE IT TOOK
SO LONG.

Steve says THEY MADE HIM WAIT.

Laurence says THEY MADE EVERYONE WAIT.
EVEN THOUGH THERE'S SPECULATION,
YOU KNOW, THE COMMITTEE MEETS
THAT DAY AND THEY MAKE THE
DECISIONS ON WHO GOES INTO THE
HALL THAT DAY, ON JUNE 26TH,
EVERY YEAR.
AND SO EVEN THOUGH PEOPLE WERE
LIKE, FOR SURE YOU'RE GETTING
IN.
THERE'S ALWAYS A CHANCE YOU'RE
NOT.
SO, YOU KNOW, THIS WAS A REALLY
EMOTIONALITY DAY, AN EMOTIONAL
MOMENT, AND I THINK IT WAS ROUND
CIRCLED FOR WILLIE.

Steve says I GET THE SENSE IT
WAS MORE IMPORTANT FOR HIS
FRIENDS THAN FOR HIM.
THEY CARED CERTAINLY AS MUCH,
MAYBE MORE THAN HE DID, ABOUT
SEEING THIS MAN GET HIS DUE.
HE'S GOT LOVELY FRIENDS, DOESN'T
HE, WHO REALLY CARE A LOT ABOUT HIM?

Laurence says AN IMPORTANT THEME IN THE
FILM IS FRIENDSHIP.
THE FILM IS ABOUT WILLIE'S STORY
AND HOCKEY, BUT, AGAIN,
HOCKEY... IT'S NOT A HOCKEY
FILM.
IT REALLY HIGHLIGHTS THE
IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNITY, OF
STICKING UP FOR EACH OTHER, AND
ESPECIALLY IN WILLIE'S CASE, WHO
WAS ONE OF THE ONLY BLACK KIDS
IN FREDERICTON WHEN HE GREW UP,
IT SHOWS THE POWER OF FRIENDSHIP
AND COMMUNITY AND MAKING
SOMETHING AMAZING HAPPEN.
AND WILLIE GOT INTO THE HALL OF
FAME ON HIS OWN MERITS.
BUT HIS FRIENDS REALLY HELPED
WITH THE PROCESS AND THE
SUPPORT, AND THAT WAS REALLY
IMPORTANT TO SHOW THAT
FRIENDSHIP AND COMMUNITY IS
REALLY IMPORTANT IN ANYTHING YOU
ACCOMPLISH AS A PERSON.

Steve says HE'S 83 YEARS OLD
NOW.

Laurence says RIGHT.

Steve says IS HE STILL A
DIVERSITY AMBASSADOR FOR THE
NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE?

Laurence says ABSOLUTELY.

Steve says HE'S GOING TO RINKS
AND TALKING TO KIDS AND TRYING
TO BRING THE GAME TO THE INNER
CITY AND THAT KIND OF THING.
HOW DOES HE KEEP HAVING THE
PASSION TO DO THIS AT THIS STAGE
OF THE GAME?

Laurence says I THINK WILLIE HAS A LOT OF
PURPOSE.
I'LL REPEAT HIS WORDS BUT HE HAS
A SAYING THAT FIND A JOB THAT
YOU LOVE AND YOU'LL NEVER WORK A
DAY IN YOUR LIFE KIND OF THING.
I THINK WHEN WILLIE STOPPED
PLAYING HOCKEY AND DID OTHER
JOBS LIKE MANAGING A FAST FOOD
RESTAURANT OR SELLING CARS OR
WORKING IN SECURITY AT A HOTEL,
HE ALWAYS HAD A BURNING DESIRE
IN HIM THAT HE WANTED TO GIVE
BACK.
AND THAT'S WHO WILLIE IS.
HE'S LIKE A SELFLESS PERSON WHO
WANTS TO MAKE A CONTRIBUTION.
AND SO HE JUST LOVES WHAT HE
DOES.
WHEN HE GOT THAT CALL FROM THE
NHL, HE HAD A FEELING HE WAS
GOING TO GO BACK THERE AND HE
WENT BACK THERE AND HE JUST
LOVES TO SHARE HIS STORY AND
MAKE AN IMPACT, AND THAT IS
REALLY HIS LEGACY.
IT IS THE FACT THAT HE'S STILL
LIVING, HE'S THIS LIVING HERO
WHO DID THIS INCREDIBLE THING.
HIS MAIN FOCUS IS TO GIVE BACK.

Steve says IN OUR LAST MINUTE I
WANT TO ASK YOU HOW HE FELT
ABOUT BEING THE SUBJECT OF A
DOCUMENTARY.
WHEN I SAW THE PREMIERE THE
OTHER NIGHT AND SAW YOU DO THE
Q and A AFTERWARDS, HE'S A VERY
MODEST GUY.
HOW DOES HE FEEL ABOUT ALL THE ATTENTION?

A picture of the documentary poster appears on screen. It features a picture of Willie wearing a Boston Bruins jersey and holding a hockey stick, with a serious expression on his face.

Laurence says HE CRIED DURING HALF THE
PREMIERE, HE WAS SO MOVED.
IT'S A PRIVILEGE TO BE WITH
WILLIE, TO BE FRIENDS WITH
WILLIE, I'M SO PROUD I CAN CALL
HIM MY FRIEND.
WE HAD TO BUILD TRUST FOR HIM TO
FEEL COMFORTABLE AND THAT TOOK
NOT VERY LONG.
AND I THINK WILLIE HADN'T SEEN
THE FULL CUT, AND SO WE HAD THE
PREMIERE, AND I THINK HE'S
FEELING THAT, YOU KNOW, AGAIN,
IT'S COMING ROUND CIRCLE.
IT TOOK SO LONG.
WILLIE IS HAVING A THRILL YEAR.
HE HAD A THRILL YEAR LAST YEAR.
BUT IT'S ABOUT TIME, YOU KNOW?
HE'S 83 YEARS OLD.
LET'S CELEBRATE HIM.
TOO OFTEN PEOPLE DIE AND WE
CELEBRATE THEM AFTER.
SO, YOU KNOW, HE WON'T SAY THAT,
BUT I THINK IT'S WELL OVERDUE
THAT WE CELEBRATE HIM.
AND PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT INTO
HOCKEY NEED TO WATCH THE FILM
ANYWAYS.
IT'S ABOUT SO MUCH MORE.

Steve says I AGREE.
IT WAS FABULOUS.

Laurence says THANK YOU.

The caption changes to "Producer: Patricia Kozicka, @TrishKozicka."

Steve says NOT A DRY EYE IN THE
HOUSE THE NIGHT I WENT THERE.
THERE ARE SO MANY TENDER
MOMENTS.
YOU DID A GREAT JOB.
THAT IS LAURENCE MATHIEU-LEGER,
THE DIRECTOR, PRODUCER, AND
CINEMATOGRAPHER.
AS THEY SAY, DON'T WALK, RUN, TO
SEE IT.
THANK YOU, LAURENCE.

The caption changes to "Subscribe to The Agenda Podcast: tvo.org/theagenda."

Laurence says THANK YOU SO MUCH.

Watch: Willie O'Ree: Documenting an NHL trailblazer