Willie O’Ree Thankful After Bruins Jersey Raised To TD Garden Rafters

'I'm just thrilled and overwhelmed'


January 18

Bruins legend Willie O’Ree shared Tuesday how he won’t forget the feeling of watching his No. 22 jersey get raised into the rafters at TD Garden before Boston hosted the Carolina Hurricanes.

O’Ree, 86, participated in the jersey retirement virtually in San Diego. The Bruins honored O’Ree exactly 64 years after he became the NHL’s first Black player.

“Well, I’m greatly thrilled and honored to have the Bruins organization think enough of me to honor me for my number being retired,” O’Ree said as he met with the media shortly after the ceremony.

“When I started playing hockey I just wanted to play hockey and have fun. And then I played two years of juniors, turned pro, went up with the Bruins in 1958, but this is a just a memorable evening for not only myself, but for my family,” O’Ree said. “To have my number retired and hanging up there in the rafters with so many other great hockey players that have played for the Bruins, it’s just amazing. I’m just thrilled and overwhelmed.”

O’Ree became the 12th player to have his number retired by the Bruins. He’s continued to work in the league as a NHL Diversity Ambassador since 1998. It’s one reason O’Ree was so thankful to have a lasting legacy with the Boston organization.

“I think it’s great just to, you know, to be honored by the Bruins and being up there amongst the greats that played for the Bruins over the years. And I think that when these boys and girls come into the arena and look up it’ll give them the idea that you can do anything you set your mind to do, if you feel strongly within your heart and within your mind,” O’Ree said.

The pregame ceremony featured a video of O’Ree on the TD Garden video board, along with another video demonstrating his impact in the league. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and Bruins CEO and alternate governor Charlie Jacobs were among those who took part in the video while speaking glowingly of O’Ree.

Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images
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