January 18: First Black Player Steps Onto the Ice in the NHL, United Airlines Flight 266 Crash, and Other Events of the Date
A number of important events have taken place on January 18 in U.S. history. Here is our take on the most interesting and valuable of them.
1958 - First Black player steps onto the ice in the NHL
Even after the start of the Era of Changes (beginning right after WW2) and after black players had joined the MLB and the NFL, the National Hockey League remained “conservative,” not allowing any black players. Finally, Willie Eldon O’Ree became the first black NHL player on this date 61 years ago.
He was in the middle of his second minor league season with the Quebec Aces when he was suddenly called up to the Boston Bruins to replace an injured player. Not only was O’Ree black, but he was blind in his right eye, having been hit by a puck two years earlier. He managed to keep it a secret and made his NHL debut on January 18, 1958 against one of most prominent teams of all times - the Montreal Canadiens.
O’Ree played in two games that year and then returned in 1961 for 43 games, playing with Boston centreman Don McKenney and right wing Jerry Toppazzini. He scored 4 goals and 10 assists in his NHL career, all in 1961. He played just 45 NHL games, but since he was the first black man to play in the league, he was introduced into the Hockey Hall of Fame last November.
1960 - Capital Airlines Flight 20 crash
A real tragedy occurred on this date 59 years ago. Capital Airlines Flight 20 was a scheduled passenger flight from Washington, D.C. to Norfolk, Virginia. A Vickers Viscount flying the route crashed into a farm in Charles City County, Virginia, on January 18, 1960. The accident was the third fatal crash involving a Capital Viscount in as many years; the first two were Capital Airlines Flight 75 and Capital Airlines Flight 67.
The plane was cruising at an altitude of 8,000 feet when it encountered icing that caused two engines to fail. As the craft descended, the other two engines also failed, causing the propellers to autofeather. The crew tried and failed to restart the engines, and were unable to unfeather the propellers normally; they then put the plane into a dive in an attempt to force the propellers from their feathered position.
Eventually they succeeded in restarting engine number four. They applied full power to this engine, which caused the craft to enter a circling descent until crashing into trees; at the time of impact it had almost no forward velocity. Five trees were driven through the fuselage, yet their trunks remained intact. This resulted in the death of 50 passengers and 4 crew members.
1969 - United Airlines Flight 266 crash
Another tragedy with an American passenger airplane occurred 9 years after the crash of Capital Airlines Flight 20. United Airlines Flight 266 was a scheduled flight from Los Angeles International Airport, California, to General Mitchell International Airport, Milwaukee, Wisconsin via Stapleton International Airport, Denver, Colorado with 38 passengers on board. On January 18, 1969 at approximately 18:21 PST it crashed into Santa Monica Bay, Pacific Ocean, about 11.5 miles west of Los Angeles International Airport, just four minutes after takeoff.
According to the official sources, rescuers (at the time) speculated that an explosion occurred aboard the plane, a Boeing 727. Three and a half hours after the crash three bodies had been found in the ocean along with parts of the fuselage and a United States mail bag carrying letters with that day's postmark.
Hope was dim for survivors also because United's domestic flights do not carry life rafts or life jackets. A Coast Guard spokesman said it looked "very doubtful that there could be anybody alive." Up until 2013, United used the Flight 266 designation on its San Francisco-Chicago (O'Hare) route. All passengers aboard died in the crash.
These are the most notable events in the U.S. history that occurred on January 18, at least in our view.