It was on this date 63 years ago, January 18, 1958, that Willie O’Ree became the first Black player to appear in a National Hockey League Game. Tonight, the Boston Bruins will retire Mr. O’Ree’s number 22 when they host the Carolina Panthers.
Mr. O’Ree skated for the Bruins against the Montreal Canadians. He played in two games for the Bruins that year and 43 more during the 1960-61 season. He finished his NHL career with four goals and 10 assists, all coming during the 1960-61 season.
His professional career spanned 21 seasons, much of it in the Western Hockey League, a top-flight minor league at a time when the NHL had only six teams. This despite the fact he was blind in one eye.
Mr. O’Ree serves as the NHL’s Director of Youth Development. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in the Builders category in 2018.