Celebrating Willie O’Ree

On Jan. 18, 2022, the Boston Bruins will retire Willie O’Ree’s No. 22 jersey prior to the game against the Carolina Hurricanes. O’Ree is the 12th player in franchise history to have his sweater honored.

This honor comes exactly 64 years to the date of when O’Ree became the first Black player to compete in an NHL game when he dressed for the Bruins against the Montreal Canadiens. Despite being legally blind in one eye, he appeared in 45 additional NHL games and spent 13 seasons in the Western Hockey League before officially retiring in 1979.

Since 1998, O’Ree has worked for the NHL as a diversity ambassador, focusing on the league’s “Hockey Is For Everyone” initiative and promoting diversity and inclusion in the sport. In 2018, O’Ree was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as part of the “Builder” category, which is defined by “coaching, managerial or executive ability or ability in another significant off-ice role, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to his or her organization or organizations and the game of hockey in general.”

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