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BHN Puck Links: Boston Bruins Rightly Honoring Trailblazer Willie O’Ree



Boston Bruins

The Boston Bruins have done a great job this week honoring a couple of very worthy figures in Boston hockey history. The first was the decision to retire the No. 22 worn by NHL trailblazer and pioneer Willie O’Ree, who was the first NHL player to cross the color barrier when he skated for the Bruins back in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

O’Ree was extremely thankful to the Bruins organization for the honor of being the 12th player to have his sweater honored by the Boston Bruins in franchise history, joining Lionel Hitchman (#3, 1934), Aubrey V. Clapper (#5, 1947), Edward W. Shore (#2, 1949), Milton C. Schmidt (#15, 1957), Robert G. Orr (#4, 1979), John P. Bucyk (#9, 1980), Philip A. Esposito (#7, 1987), Raymond J. Bourque (#77, 2001), Terence J. O’Reilly (#24, 2002), Cameron M. Neely (#8, 2004) and Richard D. Middleton (#16, 2018). The 85-year-old O’Ree was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018 and has been a vocal, visible ambassador for the NHL over the last 30 years while spearheading efforts to introduce hockey to kids of all backgrounds.

O’Ree got the call on Monday from the Boston Bruins about the ceremony that will take place prior to a Feb. 18 game vs. the New Jersey Devils at TD Garden and was delighted to hear the news from Neely.

“I was sitting in my backyard [on Monday] afternoon and Cam Neely from the Bruins called, and I said, ‘Hi Cam how are you, how are you?’ He said ‘Fine, I just have something special to tell you.’ And he said, ‘The Bruins are going to retire your number.’ And I said, ‘Oh my gosh’. I was at a loss for words there for a few seconds,” said O’Ree during a Tuesday night zoom call with reporters. “And I said, ‘I’m overwhelmed and thrilled about having my Bruins jersey hung up in the rafters.’

“I broke the color barrier in 1958 and there are so many – not only black players, but players of color now that are in the league. These players are there because they have the skills and ability to be there. They’re not there just because they’re black players or they’re players of color. They have proven that they can play, and the NHL is the league that they are playing in. There have been a lot of changes. There are more kids playing hockey today than ever before. There are more girls playing hockey today. The exposure is out there. What I wanted to do and what I wanted to try to do is expose as many boys and girls as possible and give them the opportunity to play the sport. There are many clinics that I’ve attended just to let these boys and girls know that there is a sport that they can play.”

The good news is that the Bruins organization intends to hold a second jersey retirement ceremony for O’Ree once fans are allowed back in the building, so he’ll get his moment to celebrate the honor with Boston Bruins fans. Interestingly, Bruins winger Craig Smith has changed his number to No. 12 after he was originally slated to wear the No. 22 this season for the Black and Gold.

In addition, the Bruins have decided to wear a “TR24” decal on their helmets this season honoring the life and legacy of former Boston University player Travis Roy after his passing over the summer.

The Bruins have become an organization synonymous with doing things first class for a long period of time and both of the aforementioned altruistic efforts are fully in line with that.

Now on to the puck links:



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Joe Haggerty has covered the Boston Bruins and the NHL for 18 years with NBC Sports Boston,, the Boston Metro and the Woburn Daily Times, and currently serves as lead Bruins reporter and columnist for Boston Hockey Now. Haggs always strives to capture the spirt of the thing any way that he can.

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