Willie O'Ree's No. 22 officially will live on forever in Boston Bruins lore.
Before Tuesday night's game at TD Garden, O'Ree became the 12th player to have his number retired by the franchise. The ceremony took place exactly 64 years after he became the NHL’s first Black player on Jan. 18, 1958.
The Bruins honored O'Ree with a video explaining the immense impact he's had on the game of hockey. The video includes several prominent NHL figures, including commissioner Gary Bettman and Bruins CEO and alternate governor Charlie Jacobs.
O'Ree, 86, delivered a powerful speech from his home in San Diego, Calif.
“I will never forget how my teammates in the Bruins locker room accepted me as one of their own,” O’Ree said. "This was a time when some of the fans and opposing players were not ready to see a Black man in the NHL. When I became the first, I remember the advice my older brother Richard gave me.
"He said he was not only my brother and my friend, but my mentor. He used to say, 'Willie, focus on your goals you set for yourself, work hard, and stay positive.' This is what I tried to do as a member of the Bruins every time I put on the jersey."
You can watch O'Ree's No. 22 get raised to the rafters in the video below:
Bruins players honored O'Ree by wearing his No. 22 during warmups.
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu officially declared Jan. 18, 2022 "Willie O'Ree Day" in Boston.