Two prominent and notable individuals that made a mark in the hockey community and in Boston for two entirely different reasons were honored during the Bruins and Habs game on Wednesday night in Boston.
Prior to puck drop against the Canadiens, the Bruins gave Willie O’ Ree a pregame ceremony celebrating the 60th anniversary of becoming the first black player to ever play in the NHL.
The Bruins organization, and Boston mayor Marty Walsh announced that January 18th, 2018 was declared as “Willie O’Ree Day.” Back on 1958, O’Ree suited up for the B’s in a 3-0 win over the Habs at the old Montreal Forum. The Fredericton, New Brunswick native played in 45 NHL games during the 1957-58 and the 1960-61 seasons and played a total of 21 years professionally.
O’Ree, who played hockey despite being legally blind in one eye, has represented the NHL as their Diversity Ambassador reminding the public that hockey is for everyone.
A new outdoor outdoor rink in the nearby community of Allston-Brighton will be named as the Willie O’Ree Rink.
O’Ree, 82, wearing a black fedora saluted the crowd as they gave him a big standing ovation.
Claude Julien, who served as the Bruins head coach from 2007-2017, made his return to TD Garden for the first time since being fired by the organization. The Bruins’ all-time leader in wins was hired by the hated rival Montreal Canadiens just one week after his dismissal from Beantown.
The 2008-09 Jack Adams winner finished his stint in Boston with 419 wins, four division titles, seven straight playoff appearances, two Stanley Cup appearance, and as the head coach of the 2011 Stanley Cup champions, the only team to win a Stanley Cup with the B’s in the previous 45 years. The Bruins still have a few players left from that championship winning roster, like Zdeno Chara, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Adam McQuaid and Tuuka Rask.
With all the turmoil around Paul Pearce complaining about the Celtics retiring his number on the same night Cavaliers guard Isaiah Thomas plays against his old club for the first time, it’s nice to see that the Bruins were able to honour both O’Ree and Julien without any issues.
The game versus Montreal marked the first match since the Bruins announced that legendary anthem singer Rene Rancourt will be retiring at the season's end.
(h/t Boston Bruins)