Willie O'Ree will finally see his jersey retired tonight and Wayne Simmonds has some thoughts on it

Published January 18, 2022 at 6:38 PM
BY BEN HODGSON
On January 18 1958, Nove Scotia native Willie O'Ree played his first NHL game for the Boston Bruins. In doing so, he became the first Black player to ever play in an NHL game. Tonight, 64 years later to the day, O'Ree's number 22 will be raised to the rafters of Boston's TD Garden.

O'Ree's NHL career saw him play 48 games in a Bruins jersey, where he was often the target of racially motivated violence and verbal abuse, including racial slurs from opposing players, fans and coaches. Despite this deplorable treatment, O'Ree persevered, scoring 639 points in 785 games over a 13-year career in the Western Hockey League after his NHL stint before retiring from hockey at age 43. Since 1998, O'Ree has worked as the NHL's Director of Youth Development and an ambassador for diversity in the NHL.

O'Ree was an inspiration to generations of BIPOC hockey players, including Grant Fuhr and Toronto's Wayne Simmonds. Simmonds' parents even made him look up O'Ree before they allowed him to play hockey.

"They wanted me to know why I was getting this opportunity to even be able to play the game. I did a lot of studying about Willie growing up, and ever since that, Willie has been my idol. Without him, not only Black children, but other BIPOC kids as well, probably wouldn't have had their opportunities. Every ethnicity has its trailblazer; it's first. Willie was the first."


O'Ree was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018 in the Builder Category, and now, finally, his #22 will be raised to the Rafters in Boston. It's fantastic to see O'Ree honoured like this. It's long overdue. Unfortunately, O'Ree will have to attend the event virtually due to concerns over COVID-19. We at LetsGoLeafs.com would like to extend our heartfelt congratulations and thanks to Mr. O'Ree for all that he has done for the hockey community. You deserve this, Willie. Our hats are off to you.

Latest 10 stories
LEADERS
GPGAPTS
1-  NIKITA KUCHEROV
623867105
2-  NATHAN MACKINNON
623764101
3-  CONNOR MCDAVID
57237497
4-  DAVID PASTRNAK
62384987
5-  ARTEMI PANARIN
61354984
6-  WILLIAM NYLANDER
60335083
7-  J.T. MILLER
63305383
8-  AUSTON MATTHEWS
59532679
9-  LEON DRAISAITL
59304878
10-  MIKKO RANTANEN
62314778
2023-2024 LEADERS  
FOLLOW US
facebookinstagram
253 580 followers