New York, Jan 12 (AFP/APP): Willie O’Ree, who became the National Hockey League’s first black player 63 years ago with the Boston Bruins, will have his number 22 jersey retired by the club next month.
The Bruins announced on Tuesday O’Ree will become the 12th player to have his number retired by the team in a February 18 ceremony ahead of Boston’s home game against New Jersey. “I’m thrilled,” O’Ree said. “Overwhelmed.” O’Ree, an 85-year-old Canadian who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018, broke the NHL color barrier as a left wing for the Bruins in a game at Montreal on January 18, 1958.
“Willie’s contributions to the game of hockey transcend on-ice accomplishments and have opened countless doors for players who have come after him,” Bruins president Cam Neely said.
“He is without question deserving of this honor.” NHL players, who open a 2021 campaign shortened by Covid-19 on Wednesday, will wear helmet decals starting Saturday noting the anniversary of O’Ree’s accomplishment, which this year falls on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a US holiday in tribute to the late black civil rights leader.
The decal, featuring an image of O’Ree wearing and the words “Celebrating Equality”, will also be worn throughout February, celebrated in the US as Black History Month. “Throughout the history of the NHL, there have been very few individuals that have had such a profound impact on the league and its culture than Willie O’Ree,” Bruins chief executive Charlie Jacobs said.
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