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On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Islanders coach Barry Trotz gives praise to hockey pioneer Willie O'Ree

Head coach Barry Trotz of the Islanders looks

Head coach Barry Trotz of the Islanders looks on from the bench during the first period against the Boston Bruins at Nassau Coliseum on Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Barry Trotz would have liked to have met slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. He has met hockey pioneer Willie O’Ree, the first Black player in the NHL.

"I wouldn’t like you if you don’t like Willie O’Ree," the Islanders’ coach said. "He’s such a great person and a good role model for the game."

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, both King and O’Ree were honored in a pregame ceremony before the Islanders beat the Bruins, 1-0, in their home opener at Nassau Coliseum. Trotz said if he had the opportunity to spend a day with a historical figure, King, "might be at the top of my list. His legacy is the right message. We should listen to his words a little closer."

Monday marked the 63nd anniversary of O’Ree’s first game for the Bruins against the Canadiens on Jan. 18, 1958. O’Ree, 85, played 45 games for the Bruins through 1961 in a professional career that lasted until 1979 and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018 as a builder. He has served the NHL as the director of youth development and ambassador for NHL diversity since 1998.

The Bruins will retire his No. 22 on Feb. 18.  

Isles files

The Islanders beat the Bruins on home ice for the first time since Nov. 2, 2013 . . . The Islanders limited the Bruins to two shots while killing off all three of their power plays. The Islanders’ penalty kill has started the season 13-for-14 . . . The Islanders’ power play was 0-for-5 with six shots and is 2-for-17 . . . Jean-Gabriel Pageau won 12 of 21 faceoffs . . . Defenseman Andy Greene blocked a game-high five shots . . . Left wing Matt Martin became the third active player in the NHL to surpass 3,000 hits, joining linemate Cal Clutterbuck . . . Defenseman Sebastian Aho and Leo Komarov remained extras.

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