In case you don’t already know, Willie O’ree broke the color barrier as the first black hockey player to play in the National Hockey League. He’s been called the Jackie Robinson of hockey and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018.
The NHL also honored O’Ree by creating the “Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award” which is awarded to an individual who has “worked to make a positive impact on his or her community, culture, or society to make people better through hockey.”
O’Ree was called up to the Bruins in the winter of 1958, despite being blind in his right eye, an injury he sustained a few seasons early from a puck. in 1961 O’Ree made the NHL again and played 43 games scoring 4 goals and 10 assists, his career totals in points.
O’Ree spent most of his professional career in the minors, mostly playing in the WHL until he was 43 years old. During that time he won 2 scoring titles.
It’s time for the Boston Bruins to step up and honor the man that broke the color barrier in the NHL. Jackie Robinson’s number is retired across the MLB. The MLB also honors Robinson on Jackie Robinson Day by having every player in the league wear number 42. A day wear the NHL wears number 22 across the league would be great, even if it’s just for warmups.
I can imagine the effect number 22 could have hanging in the rafters. I picture a family going to their first Bruins game and a parent pointing out all the retired numbers in the rafters. When they get to number 22 they can tell them that he’s up there for reasons far more important than how many goals he scored or Cups he’s won.
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