Bruins

Bruins to honor Willie O'Ree by retiring trailblazer's jersey

Bruins

Willie O'Ree's legacy will live on in Boston for as long as the Bruins' arena is still standing.

The Bruins will honor O'Ree by retiring the Hockey Hall of Famer's No. 22 jersey to the TD Garden rafters prior to the team's Feb. 18 game against the New Jersey Devils.

O'Ree became the first Black player in NHL history when he debuted for the Bruins on Jan. 18, 1958. He played a total of 45 games with Boston during the 1957-58 and 1960-61 seasons despite enduring repeated racial epithets from fans.

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The Canada native, who was the only Black player to play in the NHL until 1974, has been active in trying to break down hockey's color barrier after his playing days. He became the NHL's Diversity Ambassador in 1998 and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a Builder in 2018.

"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," Bruins CEO Charlie Jacobs said in a statement.

"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's number will be the 12th retired by the Bruins in their storied history.