Willie O'Ree's likeness and the favorite phrase of the first Black player in NHL history are featured on a custom skate designed by Bauer that is being worn by some NHL players this week.
One side of the skate's boot features an image of O'Ree, the phrase, "All I needed was the opportunity" and "January 18, 1958," the date when he made his debut for the Boston Bruins against the Montreal Canadiens.
The other side of the boot has a brown clenched fist, a peace symbol, the words, "Respect," "Equality," "Diversity," "Inclusion," "Inspire," "Change," "BLM," the initials for Black Lives Matter, and the phrases, "The work isn't done yet," "Make the impossible possible" and "A movement not a moment." O'Ree's No. 22 adorns the tongue and heel of the skates.
Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane and Florida Panthers forward Anthony Duclair wore the skates in warmups before games Wednesday.
"Through the creation of these special skates to honor Willie O'Ree, Bauer Hockey is powerfully representing the inclusive values that make our game and our world better," NHL senior vice president of social impact, growth initiatives and legislative affairs Kim Davis said. "We are proud to have worked with Bauer on this project, which adds to the monthlong celebration of Black history while also demonstrating our belief that inclusion is a year-round sport -- by using the skates to raise money for ongoing grassroots diversity and inclusion efforts in hockey."
Game-worn skates will be auctioned through the NHL auction program, and Bauer has created commemorative T-shirts that are available through Bauer.com
All proceeds will benefit the Black Girl Hockey Club, a nonprofit dedicated to uniting Black women in the hockey community and making the game more welcoming and accessible.
"The Black Girl Hockey Club is proud to be the recipient of this very generous donation from Bauer and Mr. O'Ree that will allow us to continue our work in building a space for Black women in hockey through programs like our scholarship fund and community learning events," BGHC executive director Renee Hess said.
Ed Kinnaly, CEO of Peak Achievement Athletics, which owns Bauer Hockey, said, "It's such an honor for the Bauer team to play a role in highlighting this historic milestone and elevating the voices of our athletes."
The skate's graphic was designed and inspired by Terry Smith, president of Terry Smith Creations; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Wayne Simmonds; former NHL player J.T. Brown, who is playing professionally in Sweden this season; and Eustace King, managing partner of O2K Sports Management and one of the few Black agents in professional hockey.
Smith, the lead designer, created the original San Jose Sharks logo that became a merchandising sensation when the team debuted in 1991-92.
"I think of Willie O'Ree like an astronaut," said Simmonds, who broke his wrist Feb. 6 and will be out at least five more weeks. "He was a trailblazer as a player, and off the ice his role as an ambassador continues to welcome new players and families to our game. It's been an honor for me to participate in creating this skate, and I can't wait to wear it on the ice."