Bruins To Retire Number Of Willie O'Ree, First Black NHL Player, Next Month

By Jason Hall

January 12, 2021

The Boston Bruins will honor trailblazer Willie O'Ree next month at TD Garden.

O'Ree, who broke the NHL's color barrier, becoming the league's first Black player in 1958, will have his number 22 retired and raised into the rafters prior to the Bruins' game against the New Jersey Devils on February 18, CBS Boston reports.

“Willie’s contributions to the game of hockey transcend on-ice accomplishments and have opened countless doors for players who have come after him. He is without question deserving of this honor,” Bruins president and fellow Hall of Famer Cam Neely said via CBS Boston.

“Throughout the history of the National Hockey League, there have been very few individuals that have had such a profound impact on the league and its culture than Willie O’Ree,” Bruins CEO Charlie Jacobs added, via CBS Boston. “After breaking the color barrier as a Boston Bruin in 1958 and eventually retiring from professional hockey in 1979, Willie became the ultimate ambassador for improving diversity and inclusion within the game of hockey. The entire hockey world is forever indebted to Willie for all that he has done, and continues to do, for the sport. We are incredibly proud to retire Willie’s number and cement his legacy as one of Boston’s greatest athletes.”

O'Ree was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018, honored as a "builder" of the game, which recognizes individuals who contributed to the development of the game of hockey. The Canadian former winger will become the 12th Bruins player to have his number retired and raised to the TD Garden rafters.

Unfortunately, fans are unlikely to be in attendance during the February number retirement ceremony due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, however, the franchise plans to once again honor O'Ree when attendance is permitted.

NHL players leaguewide will wear a decal on their helmets honoring the anniversary of O'Ree's NHL debut in January and February.

Photo: Getty Images

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