Boston Bruins to retire jersey of Willie O'Ree who broke NHL's colour barrier

Former NHL player and author Willie O’Ree talks about channeling his love for hockey to become the first Black player in the NHL in his new memoir ‘Willie: The Game Changing Story of the NHL’s First Black Player’.

BOSTON – Willie O’Ree, who broke the NHL’s colour barrier, is set have his jersey retired by the Boston Bruins.

O’Ree will have his No. 22 jersey honoured prior to the Bruins’ Feb. 18 game against the New Jersey Devils, the team announced Tuesday.

Read more:
New Brunswick documentary honours first player to break NHL colour barrier

He became the league’s first Black player when he suited up for Boston on Jan. 18, 1958, against the Montreal Canadiens, despite being legally blind in one eye. O’Ree played two seasons from the Bruins, retiring from professional hockey in 1979.

He also donned No. 18 and No. 25 during his time with the Bruins but wore number 22 in the bulk of his games with the club.

O’Ree, 85, becomes the 12th player in team history to have a sweater hung in the TD Garden rafters.

“Willie’s contributions to the game of hockey transcend on-ice accomplishments and have opened countless doors for players who have come after him. He is without question deserving of this honour,” Bruins president Cam Neely said in a statement.

O’Ree was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame class of 2018 as part of the “Builder” category, which honours those who have made significant contributions to the sport.

He played 45 games in his NHL career for the Bruins, notching four goals and 10 assists.

Since 1998, O’Ree has worked for the NHL as a diversity ambassador.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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