Willie ORee, who will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday, Angela James and Grant Fuhr sat together and engaged in a roundtable discussion with former NHL player Anson Carter serving as the moderator. It was the first time the three black honored members of the Hall were filmed together talking about their careers.
ORee, the first black player in the NHL, will become the first black person inducted into the Builders category of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Fuhr, a five-time Stanley Cup-winning goalie with the Edmonton Oilers in the 1980s, became the first black athlete in the Hockey Hall of Fame when he was inducted in 2003. James became the first black female in the Hall in 2010.
It wasnt until the 45-minute roundtable discussion was over that ORee, James and Fuhr realized the historic impact of their meeting.
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“And theyve got it on tape and hopefully theyll be able to show it,” said ORee, who made his NHL debut for the Boston Bruins on Jan. 18, 1958. “Its a nice feeling just to know that I had a small part of opening doors and breaking down barriers to make it possible for not only Angela but for Grant and Anson to play in the NHL.”
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The roundtable was arranged by Kwame Mason, the writer, producer and director of “Soul on Ice: Past, Present and Future,” a 2015 documentary that details the history of black players in ice hockey.
“You talk about Mr. ORees background and where he came up, my background and Grants background, it hits so many different things from being adopted, being bi-racial, and Anson being a star in the NHL and now sitting here commentating,” James said. “It shows you can do anything if you put your mind to it.”
Unlike the three Hall of Famers he was interviewing, Carter immediately thought of the historic element of the roundtable when he was asked by Mason to moderate it.
Denis Brodeur photographed Martin from his sons days playing hockey in the road front of the family home in the Montreal district of St. Leonard, and in the basement, with a ball of wool wound tight with adhesive tape to make a round puck. He followed Martin through his selection by the New Jersey Devils in the 1990 NHL Draft (No. 20) and Stanley Cup championships in 1995, 2000 and 2003, and chronicled his sons Calder Trophy win as NHL rookie of the year (1993-94), his Vezina Trophy wins as the NHLs best goalie (2002-03, 2003-04, 2006-07, 2007-08) and his share of William Jennings Trophy wins (1996-97, 1997-98, 2002-03, 2003-04 and 2009-10, with the award given to the goaltender(s) who play a minimum of 25 games for the team with the fewest goals allowed).
Carter, who had 421 points (202 goals, 219 assists) in 674 games during 10 seasons in the NHL, also has a different perspective as a player who benefitted from the barriers ORee, James and Fuhr broke before he got to the NHL in 1996.
“I wasnt a goaltender because goalie equipment is so expensive, but I loved everything about Grant Fuhrs game, the athleticism and the fact that he won, played on the best teams,” Carter said. “For me to have a sit-down with him, it blew my mind. I told my brother and he was like, What? And Angela James, shes the reason I watch womens hockey. I remember watching her back in 1990 and I was thinking, Who is this powerful skater with sick hands, just dominating this game the way Gretzky used to do in the 80s?”
James won four IIHF Womens World Championship gold medals, including in 1990, the inaugural year of the tournament, when she scored 11 goals in five games. She was among the first three women inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame in 2008 and joined Cammi Granato as the first two women in the Hockey Hall of Fame two years later.
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“To be able to meet her and talk to her and be around her in this environment, especially on Willies big day, is huge
Part of my job when we get to a city is to drive various routes. I need to have my routes down to get us where were going. One night in Ottawa, a number of years ago, there was traffic leaving the game. I stayed off the highways. The problem was I missed a left turn. Were driving and driving and driving. Finally, Gary says in the back, Al, I think we shouldve been at the airport by now. I was so embarrassed. He says, Lets just pull over at a gas station and get some help. Ive worked with a lot of people who wouldve reamed me out over that. I still beat myself up over it.
So big, in fact, that Carter said he cycled through three outfits before settling on his suit and tie combination. He didnt want to regret anything about the moment.
“Sometimes your schedule is so packed its like, Oh, I cant get another thing in, ” James said. “But now Im saying, Oh my God, if I would have missed this I would have really regretted it.
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“I didnt really look at it as history being made. Really, if anything, its more about friendships being made.”
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