Boston Bruins Retire Jersey Of Willie O’Ree, NHL’s First Black Player
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The Boston Bruins retired Willie O’Ree’s No. 22 jersey before Tuesday’s (January 18) Bruins-Hurricanes game.
According to a Bruins press release, players took the ice for warm-ups in special-edition jerseys with commemorative Willie O’Ree patches prior to the barrier-breaking hockey player’s ceremony.
“The ice will feature newly-installed No. 22 decals behind each team’s net, which will remain on display for three home games,” the Bruins announced.
O’Ree broke the NHL’s color barrier in 1958, becoming the first Black player to compete in an NHL game exactly 64 years ago when the Bruins took on the Montreal Canadiens on January 18, 1958.
“It was something that I’ve never dreamed of,” O’Ree said of his jersey retirement in a phone interview with the Associated Press. “I was very fortunate to be called up to the Bruins in 1958 and played with them ’60 and ’61. And then all of a sudden, to find out that my jersey is going to be retired and to hang in the rafters there with the local icons and legends that are up there at the present time — it’s just simply amazing.”
Due to a rise in COVID-19 cases throughout the country, O’Ree, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018, attended the event virtually from his home in San Diego.
The official ceremony began with a special video celebrating O’Ree, followed by a keynote address from the honoree himself. To conclude the ceremony, Bruins alumni Anson Carter and SCORE Boston representatives Dallas Jackson, Toryn Jackson, Austin Nelson, and Donald Craft raised O’Ree’s jersey into the rafters of Boston’s TD Garden, the Bruins announced.
In celebration of O’Ree’s honor, Mayor of the City of Boston, Michelle Wu, proclaimed January 18, 2022, as Willie O’Ree Day in the City of Boston.
Landmarks around Boston were also lit up gold Tuesday evening in honor of O’Ree’s jersey retirement.
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