Willie O’Ree’s No. 22 will be raised up to the TD Garden rafters alongside some other Boston Bruins legends, an honor he very much deserves.
O’Ree was the NHL’s first Black player, breaking the color barrier in 1958 as a member of the Bruins. His number will be retired Feb. 18 prior to puck drop against the New Jersey Devils.
For O’Ree, he’s “thrilled and honored” to be part of such an exclusive club.
“It’s wonderful, really,” he told reporters Tuesday. “I’ve met those gentleman and Bobby (Orr) has attended my Will O’Ree hockey skills tournament on weekends. I’m, as I’ve mentioned, I’m just thrilled and honored to be a part of the Bruins organization. I was a Montreal Canadiens fan in my teens because Toronto and Montreal were the only two teams in the NHL, but when I went to my first Bruins training camp in 1957, I became a Bruins fan. In ‘58 I went again. I had the highest respect and highest admiration for the entire Bruin organization, especially the guys that I played with during that time.”
O’Ree, 85, has been a Diversity Ambassador since 1998, and will be the 12th Bruins legend to have his number in the rafters.