NHL’s 1st black player, Willie O’Ree, will be inducted into Hockey Hall of Fame

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Willie O’Ree at a 50-year celebration of his NHL debut. | John Bazemore/AP Photo

Barrier-breaking pioneer Willie O’Ree and longtime Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur highlight the Hockey Hall of Fame’s class of 2018. They’re two of six hockey figures set to be inducted this year as part of the group announced Tuesday.

Martin St. Louis, Jayna Hefford, Alexander Yakushev and current commissioner Gary Bettman will also be enshrined in November.

O’Ree, the first black player in NHL history, finally gets the Hall call as a “builder” of the sport, an honor that many have been calling for years for him to receive. O’Ree broke hockey’s color barrier in 1958 by playing for the Bruins, and has spent the decades since as an important ambassador for hockey.

Bettman, the league’s commissioner since 1993, also enters the Hall in the “builder” category.

Brodeur, one of the greatest goalies in hockey history, makes his way into the Hall in his first year on the ballot. That honor is increasingly reserved for the best of the best, but there was little doubt that voters would put Brodeur in that group.

The NHL record books are littered with Brodeur’s name. He’s the league’s all-time goaltending leader in games played, wins, losses, saves and shutouts. As a member of the Devils, he won three Stanley Cups and four Vezina Trophies as the game’s top netminder.

St. Louis is the top player to join Brodeur in this year’s class. The shifty winger took the NHL by storm despite his small stature and became one of the top scorers of his generation. As a member of the Lightning, he won two Art Ross Trophies, a Hart Trophy and a Stanley Cup.

Hefford and Yakushev were stars on the international stage. Hefford won four Olympic gold medals playing for the Canadian national team from 1998 to 2014. Yakushev, one of the best Russian players of the late 1960s and early 1970s, won two Olympic gold medals with the Soviet Union and represented the country at the 1972 Summit Series.

The 2018 Hockey Hall of Fame induction celebration is set for Nov. 12.

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