Sometimes Willie O’Ree’s contributions to hockey fly under the radar.
Sure the former Bruins forward has been honored a couple times at TD Garden and he’s received other awards and attention from the NHL, but the league’s first-ever black player doesn’t have his number retired nor is he in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Last night The Sports Museum at the Garden honored O’Ree with its Legacy Award at the 10th annual The Tradition.
Bob Snow of NHL.com was on the scene last night and he spoke with O’Ree about the honor. O’Ree said:
“I was overwhelmed when I was contacted about this award. I’ve been a Bruins fan since 1957 when I came to training camp here. And to get the award right after Boston won the Cup, I’d like to have my skates on right now.”
O’Ree broke the sport’s color barrier in 1958 with the Bruins against Montreal. His appearance in the lineup caused little fanfare at the time, but over the years his accomplishments have grown in appreciation to hockey fans and historians alike. As amazing as his breaking of the color barrier was his carving out of a lengthy pro career while legally blind in one eye.