The Boston Bruins honored Willie O’Ree Tuesday by retiring his No. 22 jersey. O’Ree was the first African American NHL player and broke the color barrier in the sport during the 1957-1958 season. In his 45-game playing career, he compiled four goals and 14 points and was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2018.
“To the Bruins fans, I am honored to have had the pleasure of playing before you. Thank you for your tremendous love and support,” O’Ree said virtually from his home in San Diego. “This is an unforgettable day. I am overwhelmed and thrilled to be a part of the Bruins, forever.”
The celebration has gone outside the Bruins, as well, as the city of Boston deemed January 18th ‘Willie O’Ree Day.’
The entire league took part in the celebration of O’Ree before all games tonight.
Since 1998, O’Ree has been the NHL’s Director of Youth Development and ambassador for Diversity. His biography page on the NHL’s website tells of how much he’s helped to grow the game to more diverse groups.
“Over the past decade, O’Ree has traveled thousands of miles across North America helping to establish 39 local grassroots hockey programs, all geared towards serving economically disadvantaged youth. While advocating strongly that ‘Hockey is for Everyone,’ O’Ree stresses the importance of essential life skills, education, and the core values of hockey, which are: commitment, perseverance, and teamwork.”
However, Boston took an ugly 7-1 loss to the Hurricanes on the night of the ceremony.