Willie O’Ree will have to wait a year to see his number retired by the Bruins. The NHL has announced that the ceremony to retire his No. 22 will now take place on Jan. 18, 2022.
O’Ree’s number was originally scheduled to be retired before the Bruins Feb. 18 game. COVID-19 restrictions meant no fans would have been in attendance, but the team planned to honor the Hall of Famer at a later date.
From the NHL:
After consultation with Willie and the Bruins, we have respectfully asked that the banner-raising be postponed until January 18, 2022 – 64 years to the date that Willie became the first Black player in NHL history. We hope and expect the change will enable us all to commemorate this moment in a way that matches the magnitude of Willie’s impact – in front of a TD Garden crowd packed with passionate Bruins fans, who can express their admiration and appreciation for Willie and create the meaningful moment he has earned throughout his incredible career.
Willie and the Bruins have graciously agreed to this change, and we all look forward to making this celebration even more robust together.
Leaving a legacy
During a game on Jan. 18, 1958, Willie O’Ree became the first Black player to play in an NHL game when he suited up for the Bruins. While he spent most of his hockey career in the minors, playing only 45 games in Boston his biggest impact has come out of uniform.
After his player career ended, O’Ree dedicated his life to growing the game at the grassroots level. Since 1998 he’s been the NHL’s Diversity Ambassador, helping out their Hockey is For Everyone campaign. His work resulted in him being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018 in the “Builder” category.
O’Ree will be the 12th player have his number honored by the Bruins, and first since Rick Middleton in 2018.
Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.