Willie O’Ree’s Boston Jersey Retirement and the NHL

Willie O’Ree has changed hockey in a monumental way for every single Black player today. O’Ree was the first-ever Black player in the National Hockey League history and deserves his jersey number to be retired. The Boston Bruins have already taken the first step by rescheduling the number retirement to the next season in order to allow fans to attend the ceremony. 

Willie O’Ree in this Bruins jersey in the 1950s (Source: AP Photo)

Willie O’Ree’s number should be retired because even with all the discrimination in the 1950s for all African Canadians and Americans such as racial slurs, O’Ree never stopped pushing to be recognized in the NHL. In doing so, O’Ree carved a pathway for all future generations of Black hockey players. He has given motivation to many players such as Wayne Simmonds to achieve his dreams of becoming a professional hockey player as well. 

When Willie O’Ree first signed with the Boston Bruins, keeping a secret of being partially blind to the public and the Boston Bruins in order to be able to play and break down the colour barrier in 1958. 

By playing his 45 games in the NHL for the Boston Bruins, O’Ree broke the colour barrier and has since been recognized as the “Jackie Robinson of Ice Hockey”. He has been seen as a hero to many players and will always be remembered in the history of the sport and of the National Hockey League.  

Willie O’Ree should have his number retired not only by the Boston Bruins but by the National Hockey League itself, just like how Jackie Robinson had his number 42 retired by the Major League Baseball. O’Ree’s history is just as great and as important as Jackie Robinson’s.  

Scott Boucher

Featured image:  Willie O’Ree in front of his own hockey facility called “Willie O’Ree Place”. (source: Stephen MacGillivray/CP) 

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