The NHL began its shortened 2020-21 season last week, and the Boston Bruins kicked off their campaign with a new leader on the ice and tributes to a longtime captain. The team also announced plans to honor an iconic former Bruins player, as well as an inspirational collegiate hockey player from the Boston area.
The team, owned by Delaware North Chairman Jeremy Jacobs, announced last week that center Patrice Bergeron, a 17-year veteran of the club, would become the 20th team captain in franchise history. Bergeron helped lead the team to the Stanley Cup in 2011 and ranks third in team history in games played and gamewinning goals and is fifth in both goals and assists.
“To be captain of an Original Six franchise is an honor and a role that comes with much responsibility to his teammates and the fans,” Mr. Jacobs said. “There is no doubt in my mind that Patrice is the natural successor to the captain role and he will represent this franchise very well.
“He has consistently and reliably contributed to this team’s advancement and has been an adept leader for many years, both on and off the ice. His tenure as captain will be one of great success,” Mr. Jacobs said.
Bergeron takes the place of defenseman Zdeno Chara, the team’s captain for 14 years, who now plays for the Washington Capitals. Upon his announced departure in December, Bruins President Cam Neely reflected on Chara’s career with the Bruins since joining the team in 2006:
“It has been a pleasure to watch him become one of the greatest players to put on a black and gold sweater. Zdeno’s dedication to the game, his teammates and Bruins fans has been everything we could have hoped for in a player and specifically as our captain for 14 years. His achievements – which are too many to list both on and off the ice – will forever be a part of Bruins history.
“On behalf of the Bruins organization I want to thank Zdeno for all that he has done for the Bruins, and with him, Tatiana, Elliz, Zach and Ben well in the future,” Neely said. “The Chara family will always remain Bruins.”
The Bruins announced they will honor Willie O’Ree, a former Bruins player and trailblazing symbol of diversity in the sport of hockey, by retiring his number 22 jersey next month.
O’Ree became the first black player to compete in an NHL game on January 18, 1958, when he dressed for the Bruins, despite being legally blind in one eye. Following the game, he said, “It was the greatest thrill of my life, I believe. I will always remember this day.”
“Throughout the history of the National Hockey League, there have been very few individuals who have had such a profound impact on the league and its culture than Willie O’Ree,” said Boston Bruins CEO Charlie Jacobs. “After breaking the color barrier as a Boston Bruin in 1958 and eventually retiring from professional hockey in 1979, Willie became the ultimate ambassador for improving diversity and inclusion within the game of hockey.”
O’Ree, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018, is the 12th player to have his sweater honored by the Boston Bruins in franchise history. Since 1998, O’Ree has worked for the NHL as a Diversity Ambassador, focusing on the league’s Hockey Is For Everyone initiatives.
The Bruins will also be honoring the life and legacy of the late Travis Roy, a collegiate hockey player for Boston University, by wearing a commemorative emblem on their helmets throughout the season.
Roy, a New England native, was tragically injured during his very first shift on the ice for Boston University in 1995 at the age of 20. His injuries left him paralyzed from the neck down and unable to continue his hockey career. Despite the life-altering injury, Roy started a foundation that gives grants to fund research and enhance the lives of people with spinal cord injuries. He became a celebrated author and source of inspiration for many before he passed away in October 2020.
The Bruins will join the Boston University men’s and women’s ice hockey teams this upcoming season by wearing an emblem that features Roy’s initials and the number 24, which is the number he wore at Boston University