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While it was obvious that O’Ree was black, what was less obvious was the fact that he was 95 percent blind in his right eye, having been struck by a puck in the eye. O’Ree managed to keep it secret throughout his career.
He played in only two games in 1958 before being sent back down.
He returned to the league in 1961 and scored four goals with 10 assists in 43 games for the Bruins. But that would be the last season he would play in the NHL. Unlike Robinson, O’Ree didn’t usher in a generation of black hockey players.
It would be 13 years after O’Ree left the league that another black player would follow him. And according to the NHL, there have only been a total of about 75 black players in the league.
Today, despite stars such as P.K. Subban, Jarome Iginla and Dustin Byfuglien — and the legacy of hall of famers such as Grant Fuhr and pioneers like O’Ree — blacks make up only about 5 percent of the players in the National Hockey League.