BOSTON (CBS) — The Boston Bruins announced that the team will retire the number of Willie O’Ree.
The team will retire O’Ree’s number 22 prior to the Bruins’ game against the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 18.
O’Ree broke the NHL’s color barrier when he became the first Black player to skate in an NHL game for the Bruins in 1958.
“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 Cam Neely said.
“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 said. “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 as a “builder” of the game, and he’ll become the 12th player to have his number hanging in the rafters at the Garden.
Players across the league will wear a decal on their helmets in January and February to honor the anniversary of O’Ree’s NHL debut, too.
The Bruins noted that fans are unlikely to be in attendance for the ceremony. Nevertheless, “despite this regrettable circumstance, the organization believes that it is important to move forward with a virtual pre-game ceremony and bestow this honor on Willie. Once protocols allow, the Bruins will again honor Willie in front of a full TD Garden.”