Bruins Reschedule Willie O’Ree Jersey Retirement

Boston Bruins, Willie O'Ree (Photo by Presley Ann/Getty Images)
Boston Bruins, Willie O'Ree (Photo by Presley Ann/Getty Images) /

One month ago, the Boston Bruins announced that they are retiring the number of former winger Willie O’Ree. O’Ree broke a big barrier when was the first Black man to play in an NHL game during the 1957-58 season.

The ceremony was supposed to be held on Feb. 18 at the TD Garden when the Bruins played the New Jersey Devils. On Thursday, the NHL announced that the Bruins and O’Ree have agreed to change the date on the banner-raising until Jan. 18, 2022, which is the date that will mark 64 years since O’Ree became the first Black player in NHL history.

O’Ree played in 45 career National Hockey League games with 10 goals and four assists.

This honor is something that has been a long time coming for O’Ree. O’Ree, who was born in Fredericton, New Brunswick, played in the Quebec Senior Hockey League with the Quebec Aces when the Bruins called him up to play in a pair of games in 1958 to fill-in for an injury.

O’Ree made his debut against the Montreal Canadiens in 1958. He broke into the NHL nearly 11 years after Jackie Robinson knocked down the baseball barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947.

The coronavirus has put the sports world into unprecedented times. Games are being postponed and fans are not allowed at many arenas. The Bruins were supposed to play two games at home against the Devils on Feb. 15 and 18, but the game on Feb. 15 has been postponed as New Jersey is still in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols. The Feb. 18 game is still on as scheduled, for now.

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Willie O’Ree’s number retirement was going to be virtual because of the COVID-19 pandemic, as Boston is not currently allowing fans at games at the TD Garden. Moving the banner-raising to January of 2022 is the right decision as this is a historic night that should be celebrated with a full house in Boston.