Thanksgiving parade float at tribute to ORee


Anson Carter has been practicing for his appearance on the MassMutual and NHL float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday.

“To be a participant, I’m excited, I’m pumped,” said Carter, an analyst for the NHL on TNT and a former forward who played for eight NHL teams. “I’m practicing my royal wave every single day to make sure I have that down pat.”

Carter was joined on the float by MSG Network hockey analyst and former NHL defenseman Bryce Salvador, along with Kevin Hodgson and Rico Phillips, recipients of the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award.

Mickey Guyton, who was the first Black female solo artist to earn a Grammy nomination in the country music category, performed on the float while it made its way along the 2.5-mile route in Manhattan.

Themed “Winning Winter Together,” the float featured a giant snowman goalie towering over a community pond made of skateable synthetic ice.

The float’s theme and participants pay homage to O’Ree, who became the NHL’s first Black player when he debuted with the Boston Bruins on Jan. 18, 1958.

“I’ve been in many, many parades, but this tops the cake,” said Phillips a retired firefighter who won the O’Ree award in 2019 for founding the Flint Inner-City Youth Hockey Program in Michigan. “What I see happening in hockey, and this is a perfect example of that, is that diversity is turning into inclusion. It’s becoming much more common for us, people of color, to represent our sport and be influential.”

Carter said the float is a fitting prelude to O’Ree’s No. 22 jersey being retired by the Bruins on Jan. 18 at TD Garden before they play the Carolina Hurricanes. 

“It’s a tremendous honor to be on the float,” said Carter, who is co-chair of the NHL’s Player Inclusion Committee. “Anything to do with Willie O’Ree and hockey, I’m dropping anything that I can to participate.”

In that spirit, Carter, Salvador, Phillips and Hodgson, the 2021 O’Ree award recipient, hosted a clinic for 50 members of Ice Hockey in Harlem and Hockey in New Jersey, Hockey Is For Everyone affiliates, at the Sharpe James/Kenneth A. Gibson Recreation & Aquatic Center in Newark on Saturday.

The NHL is donating $5,000 to each organization on behalf of MassMutual to help them manage operational challenges due to COVID-19. MassMutual is matching the donation.

Hodgson, executive director of HEROS (Hockey Education Reaching Out Society), which empowers at-risk youth in cities across Canada, said he can’t believe he’ll be participating in one of the world’s most famous parades and help run a clinic with people he’s long admired.

“Being able to spend time with someone like Rico, Anson Carter and Bryce Salvador … those guys, it wasn’t easy for them charting their paths in hockey,” Hodgson said. “To able to stand next to them and learn from them, I get better. I don’t need to be on a float with them, but that’s just pure gravy.”

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