Willie O’Ree made his Boston Bruins debut in 1958 during a 3-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens. O’Ree, who became the first black player in NHL history that day, was honored Wednesday at TD Garden on the 60th anniversary of the historic occasion — fittingly prior to a 4-1 victory over the Canadiens.
Prior to Wednesday's game, Charlie Jacobs, CEO of Delaware North’s Boston Holdings; Marty Walsh, mayor of Boston; and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced that a new hockey rink in the city’s Allston-Brighton neighborhood will be named in O’Ree’s honor.
The Willie O’Ree Rink — donated in part by the Bruins, owned by Delaware North Chairman Jeremy Jacobs — will open this summer. Meanwhile, Thursday was celebrated as Willie O’Ree Day in Boston.
"A great part of a very storied franchise," Charlie Jacobs said. "Today is a proud moment for us, having Willie here, having him recognized by the National Hockey League. …It is my hope that this rink will serve as a way to promote Willie’s mission of introducing boys and girls of diverse backgrounds to the game of hockey."
O’Ree, who suited up for 43 games with the Bruins over two seasons and played 21 seasons of professional hockey, has served as the NHL’s Diversity Ambassador since 1998. In that role, O’Ree, now 82 years old, has traveled the country to help spread the game of hockey and the league’s Hockey is for Everyone initiatives.
Read more about O’Ree, including his connection to Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball, in a teriffic piece by BostonBruins.com (click here).
PHOTO CAPTION: Willie O’Ree (far left) is honored by Charlie Jacobs (far right), CEO of Delaware North’s Boston Holdings, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman (second from left) and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.