Bruins will retire jersey of NHL barrier breaker Willie O’Ree

He became the league’s first Black player when he suited up for Boston on Jan. 18, 1958, against the Montreal Canadiens.

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Hockey Hall of Famer Willie O’Ree, right, waves to the crowd before dropping the ceremonial puck before a Bruins game last January. The Bruins announce they will retire O’Ree’s No. 22 jersey.

Hockey Hall of Famer Willie O’Ree, right, waves to the crowd before dropping the ceremonial puck before a Bruins game last January. The Bruins announce they will retire O’Ree’s No. 22 jersey.

Michael Dwyer/AP

BOSTON — Willie O’Ree, who broke the NHL’s color barrier, is set have his jersey retired by the Boston Bruins. 

O’Ree will have his No. 22 jersey honored prior to the Bruins’ Feb. 18 game against the New Jersey Devils, the team announced Tuesday. 

He became the league’s first Black player when he suited up for Boston on Jan. 18, 1958, against the Montreal Canadiens, despite being legally blind in one eye. O’Ree played two seasons from the Bruins, retiring from professional hockey in 1979. 

He also donned No. 18 and No. 25 during his time with the Bruins but wore number 22 in the bulk of his games with the club. 

O’Ree, 85, becomes the 12th player in team history to have a sweater hung in the TD Garden rafters.

“Willie’s contributions to the game of hockey transcend on-ice accomplishments and have opened countless doors for players who have come after him. He is without question deserving of this honor,” Bruins president Cam Neely said in a statement.

O’Ree was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame class of 2018 as part of the “Builder” category, which honors those who have made significant contributions to the sport. 

He played 45 games in his NHL career for the Bruins, notching four goals and 10 assists. 

Since 1998, O’Ree has worked for the NHL as a diversity ambassador. 

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