The Bruins announced this morning that the team will retire Willie O'Ree's number 22 in February.
It's a welcome move, and frankly, one that's long overdue.
O'Ree will be the 12th Bruin to have his number retired, and the first since Rick Middleton in 2018.
“On behalf of the Boston Bruins organization I would like to congratulate Willie O’Ree as well as his wife, Deljeet, and his daughter, Chandra, on having his number retired in the TD Garden rafters,” said Boston Bruins President Cam Neely in a press release. “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.”
O'Ree became the first Black player to play in an NHL game when he suited up for the Bruins back in 1958.
While O'Ree's time with the Bruins wasn't long, his impact on the franchise and the sport can't be overstated.
O'Ree continues to be one of the league's most respected ambassadors, and is a positive driver of diversity in today's game.
The sad part: the ceremony will almost certainly be held without fans in attendance, as it's scheduled for Thursday, February 18 before the game against the New Jersey Devils.
O'Ree deserves better than an empty arena, which further illustrates the point that this should have happened a decade (or more) ago.
Still, the Bruins will likely have another ceremony when fans are allowed back into the Garden.
Congrats to Willie on the honor!