BOSTON (CBS) — The NHL will honor Willie O’Ree — the first black man to play in the league when he broke the color barrier with the Boston Bruins in 1958 — with a special decal on helmets through January and February.
From Jan. 16 through the end of February, NHL players will sport a helmet decal celebrating the 63rd anniversary of O’Ree becoming the first Black player in the league and to observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced the initiative on Monday.
The decals feature an image of O’Ree wearing his trademark fedora along with the words “Celebrating Equality.” This year, Martin Luther King Jr. Day coincides with the anniversary of O’Ree’s debut with the Bruins, which took place in 1958 in a game against the Canadiens in Montreal.
Commissioner Gary Bettman today announced that the NHL has created a custom helmet decal that pays tribute to Hockey Hall of Famer Willie O’Ree and Martin Luther King, Jr., through the theme of Celebrating Equality. pic.twitter.com/Xkrw57JIoy
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) January 11, 2021
“When I reminisce back, I say, ‘Oh my goodness, 1958. Time flies,'” O’Ree said in a release. “I’m thrilled, overwhelmed about the stickers.”
O’Ree played 45 games over two seasons with the Bruins, despite being blind in his right eye. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018 for his off-ice accomplishments as the NHL’s Diversity Ambassador.