Willie O'Ree was 14 the first time he met Jackie Robinson. It was near the dugout at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn after a Dodgers game.

O'Ree told Robinson that he played baseball -- and hockey, which surprised the Dodgers icon. 

"He didn't know there were any black kids playing hockey at the time," O'Ree says.

There weren't many, but O'Ree went on to become the NHL's first black player when he skated for the Boston Bruins in 1958. That earned him the designation as the "Jackie Robinson of hockey" and a few years later, their paths crossed again.

Willie O'Ree

In 1962 O'Ree was playing for the Los Angeles Blades of the old Western Hockey League. The NAACP held a luncheon in Los Angeles to honor Robinson and invited O'Ree through the hockey club. The Blades coach introduced Robinson to O'Ree, but that proved to be unnecessary. 

"Mr. Robinson turned and said to me, 'Willie O'Ree? Aren't you the young fellow I met in Brooklyn?'" O'Ree says. "So he remembered me from 1949 to 1962, and he made a big impact on me."

O'Ree has had equal impact on others, which led to his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder in 2018. The campaign to get O'Ree into the Hall of Fame and his life story are captured in a new documentary, "Willie." 

It has been shown at several events, including the Downtown Los Angeles Film Festival. A screening at the U.S. Senate office building in Washington is scheduled for November 13. Check out the videos above for more from O'Ree and film director Laurence Mathieu-Leger.

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