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Bruins retire Willie O’Ree’s number 22 | Local News

Bruins retire Willie O’Ree’s number 22

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Willie O’Ree made history again in Boston on Tuesday night.

Before the puck fell between the Bruins and Hurricanes, Boston celebrated the first black player to play in an NHL game. O’Ree’s number 22 was retired in the rafters at TD Garden exactly 64 years after playing his first game with the Bruins to face the Canadiens.

Although O’Ree was unable to attend the ceremony in person due to rising COVID-19 cases in North America, he attended virtually as his number was hoisted into the rafters. O’Ree’s number was also painted on the ice behind the net to celebrate his career accomplishments.

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O’Ree made history on January 18, 1958, and became the first black player to play in the NHL. He continued to play in Boston until 1961 and scored four goals with 14 points. He experienced harsh racial discrimination and adversity throughout his career and paved the way for future generations of players. O’Ree was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018.

“It was a night to remember,” O’Ree said, via CBS17 in Boston. “I’m just overjoyed and overwhelmed.”

NHL players including Wayne Simmonds and Ryan Reaves also shared their thoughts on the ceremony. Simmonds called O’Ree an “idol,” while Reaves said a few meaningful words during the Bruins tribute video. Former NHL player Shawn Thornton, who also wore number 22 during his Boston career, spoke about O’Ree’s impact on the sport.

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The city of Boston also joined in celebrating the former hockey player. City Hall, Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium were all lit up in gold to celebrate O’Ree’s lasting impact on hockey and how he set the ‘gold standard’ for future generations. .

O’Ree, who works as a diversity ambassador for the NHL, said: “I think when those boys and girls walk into the arena and look at it, they’ll see that you can do whatever you want to do, if you define your heart and mind.”

The Bruins were unable to perform on the ice, however, losing 7-1 to the Hurricanes on Tuesday night.

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