Fredericton Prepares to Honour Hometown Hero Willie O’Ree

**Please note that in keeping with the Boston Bruins and NHL’s decision to postpone celebrations for Willie O’Ree’s jersey retirement (originally scheduled for February 18th), the City has also made the decision to postpone its events as well.Events planned to recognize Mr. O’Ree will be rescheduled for January 18, 2022 – 64 years to the day that he made his NHL debut – in hopes that we can all celebrate together in a meaningful way and deserving of Mr. O’Ree's extraordinary life.**

City announces community celebrations to recognize O’Ree’s jersey retirement 

Willie O’Ree broke the NHL’s colour barrier in 1958 during his debut with the Boston Bruins, becoming the first black person to play in the National Hockey League. Now sixty-three years later, the team will honour O’Ree and his lifetime of accomplishments with the retirement of his number 22 jersey.

With the help of Mr. O’Ree’s family and friends, the City will also host the following celebratory events:

  • February 8, 2021 (7:30pm) City Council Meeting: Mayor Mike O’Brien will read the proclamation, designating January 18, the date Mr. O’Ree made his NHL debut, as an Annual Willie O’Ree Day. He will also read along the Black History Month Proclamation.
  • February 18 (10:00am) Flag Raising in front of City Hall *POSTPONED until January 18, 2022*: : Mayor O’Brien will raise a commemorative O’Ree 22 flag at City Hall with Mr. O’Ree’s family and close friends in attendance.
  • February 18 (7:00pm) Banner Raising at City Rinks *POSTPONED until January 18, 2022*: Mayor O’Brien, along with Mr. O’Ree’s close friends and family, will raise a banner in his honour at Willie O’Ree Place.  This event will be livestreamed to the public. Banners will also be placed at the City’s other arenas.

“Willie is a great ambassador for sport and hockey, for inclusion, and for Fredericton”, said Mayor Mike O’Brien. “We are proud to call him our hometown hero and look forward to recognizing his inspiring lifetime of achievements this year, and every year on Willie O’Ree Day in Fredericton”. 

In addition to the activities being spearheaded by the City, several other activities are planned.  They include:

  • Fredericton Red Wings Game: A very special night full of great highlights is planned. The Red Wings intend to play that evening February 18th, dependent on the approval of Public Health, given the restrictions in certain Zones. The opponent is yet to be determined. Fans will have the opportunity to be part of the Celebration in a very special way.
  • Documentary: Willie O’Ree Lessons in Social Justice and Racism, powered by the NHL, Classroom Champions and the Willie Doc Team will become available to students and educators across Canada starting February 1st as part of Black History Month Celebrations.
  • A Cabin Restaurant Special:  The Cabin Restaurant, where Willie feels most at home with old friends telling tall tales in the Willie O'Ree and Liars Corner, will be having a special on February 18th to celebrate Willie’s #22 – two lobster roll platters for $22.00.
  • Plaque on Willie’s Childhood Home: A bronze plaque prepared by the Fredericton Heritage Trust Board to be installed at a later date, on the residence of Willie’s childhood home located at 212 Charlotte Street.

Note that all these events are designed to accommodate the current COVID-19 orange level recovery restrictions in place. Changes are subject to the COVID-19 recovery level at the time.