Willie O'Ree

Several well-known players in the NHL will be wearing skates featuring the face of Willie O’Ree and various other custom artwork promoting the importance of Black History Month. 

O’Ree was a former Canadian NHL player known for his career with the Boston Bruins from 1957-1979, but even more well known for being the first black player in the NHL, making his debut in January 1958.

Although the NHL still is not considered the most diverse professional sports league, it is only fitting that the players honor O’Ree and what he stood for during Black History Month this year, in attempts to make the sport more accessible.

Some of the big names that will be featuring O’Ree on their skates are Blackhawks’ winger Patrick Kane and Maple Leafs’ winger William Nylander.

Bauer, the company that makes the skates as a prominent sponsor for the NHL, will also be auctioning off the pairs of skates worn by both Kane and Nylander. All proceeds from the auction will then be donated to Black Girl Hockey Club, an organization that promotes Black women in the sport.

According to Bauer, the custom BHM skates were designed by Wayne Simmonds, JT Brown, Terry Smith (retired) who are all prominent black figures in the NHL, as well as agent Eustace king. Both Simmonds and Brown will be wearing the skates this month.

Wayne Simmonds had this to say about the custom O’Ree skates: 

“I think of Willie like an astronaut. 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.”

Willie O’Ree wore the number 22, which will be etched onto the tongue and heel of the skate. The Boston Bruins will also be retiring O’Ree’s number 22 next season.

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