Penguins announce creation of academy for Black youth hockey players

Penguins announce creation of academy for Black youth hockey players
The Boston Bruins say they are retiring the jersey of Willie O’Ree, who broke the NHL’s color barrier. O’Ree will have his jersey honored prior to the Bruins’ Feb. 18 game against the New Jersey Devils. (The Associated Press)

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins announced the creation of an academy aimed at providing training and mentorship opportunities for Black youth hockey players in our area.

The Willie O’Ree Academy is named in honor of the NHL’s first Black player, who joined the league in 1958 and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018.

“I was so excited and thrilled that the Willie O’Ree Academy was being developed and ultimately now being launched,” O’Ree said. “The Academy will continue the legacy I have worked so hard to create and maintain in this space.”

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The nine-week training program, which is free of charge, will be held in June at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. It’ll be open to boys and girls ages 10-18 who are already skating in the Pittsburgh Amateur Hockey League (PAHL) and Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League (PIHL).

“We have a number of diversity programs that we will be rolling out in the next few months, but this one is special because it honors Willie’s legacy while creating unique growth opportunities for Black youth already playing hockey,” said David Morehouse, president and CEO of the Penguins. “They’re skating for amateur and high school teams throughout the region, but they don’t really know each other. The academy gives them a chance to meet, get together, skate and train as a unit in the summer and, maybe most importantly, share experiences. We appreciate the fact that DICK’S Sporting Goods has stepped up again to help us in this important initiative.”

Players and families interested in participating in the Willie O’Ree Academy should please click here.