BOSTON - The Hockey Hall of Fame announced today, June 26, that they will induct Bruins legend Willie O'Ree into the Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2018. O'Ree was selected as part of the "Builder" category, which is defined by "coaching, managerial or executive ability, or ability in another significant off-ice role, sportsmanship, character and contributions to his or her organization or organizations and to the game of hockey in general." He is the seventh member of the Boston Bruins to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as part of the "Builder" category.
"On behalf of the Boston Bruins organization, I'd like to congratulate Willie on being elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2018," said Bruins CEO Charlie Jacobs. "This honor is long overdue as Willie has been a tremendous figure in our game both on and off the ice for over 60 years. We are lucky to have been able to call Willie a Bruin when he made his debut in 1958 and we could not be happier for him to finally receive the recognition he so greatly deserves."
"Willie is a pioneer and tremendous ambassador for the game of hockey, and on behalf of the Bruins organization I would like to congratulate Willie and his family on today's announcement that he will be enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame," said Bruins President Cam Neely. "The courage he showed 60 years ago when he broke the league's color barrier while wearing a Bruins sweater is an inspiration, and his work today continues to grow the game of hockey and spread the message that hockey is for everyone."
O'Ree became the first black player to compete in an NHL game on January 18, 1958, when he dressed for the Boston Bruins against the Montreal Canadiens, 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."
O'Ree played two games with the Bruins before being sent to the minors. He joined the team again during the 1960-61 season, scoring four goals and 14 points in 43 games. O'Ree then was traded to the Canadiens, but he never dressed for the Club. He spent 13 seasons in the Western Hockey League before officially retiring in 1979.
Earlier this year in commemoration of O'Ree's 60th anniversary, the NHL and Bruins donated to Boston Parks and Recreation a refurbished street hockey rink, dedicated 'Willie O'Ree Rink.' To further commemorate the 60th anniversary celebrations, the NHL and Bruins worked with Artists for Humanity, a non-profit that aims to bridge economic, racial, and social divisions by employing under-resourced youth for art and design projects. Artists for Humanity designed and created a mural that depicts O'Ree's historic moment 60 years ago, as well as the values represented by Hockey Is For Everyone - perseverance, dedication, and teamwork. Two replicas of the mural will be donated to the community - one to Ulin Memorial Rink, the home arena of S.C.O.R.E. Boston, a local Hockey Is For Everyone organization. The second replica mural will be donated Devine Memorial Rink in Dorchester, inspiring future generations of youth hockey players.
Since 1998, O'Ree has worked for the NHL as a Diversity Ambassador, focusing on the League's Hockey Is For Everyone initiatives.