Willie O'Ree 'Overwhelmed and Thrilled' as Bruins Retire No. 22 Jersey

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 19, 2022

BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 18: Anson Carter helps carry the banner as former Boston Bruins player Willie O'Ree has his No. 22 jersey retired prior to the game between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Boston Bruins at the TD Garden on January 18, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)
Rich Gagnon/Getty Images

The Boston Bruins retired the No. 22 jersey on Tuesday night in honor of Willie O'Ree, the first Black player in the NHL.

Though the 86-year-old didn't appear in person for the ceremony held ahead of the Bruins' game against the Carolina Hurricanes, he offered remarks shown on the video board at TD Garden.

"To the Bruins fans, I am honored to have had the pleasure of playing before you," O'Ree said in the video. "Thank you for your tremendous love and support. This is an unforgettable day. I am overwhelmed and thrilled to be a part of the Bruins forever. Thank you."

O'Ree also discussed his start with the Bruins in 1958 after being told by doctors he would never play again:

B/R Open Ice @BR_OpenIce

"I told myself, Willie, forget about what you can't see and focus on what you can see." <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Willie22?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Willie22</a> <a href="https://t.co/zWtI7DdOcN">pic.twitter.com/zWtI7DdOcN</a>

The Canadian only appeared in 45 games across two seasons with the Bruins, totaling four goals and 10 assists. But his impact went far beyond his production on the ice.

In 2018, O'Ree was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a "builder" due to his efforts in helping grow the game.

He is now the 12th player in Bruins history to have his number retired.