Bauer Hockey Designs Custom Skate Graphic Honoring NHL’s First Black Player Willie O’Ree
EXETER, N.H., Feb. 17, 2021 /CNW/ — As an extension of its commitment to making hockey more diverse and inclusive, Bauer Hockey designed a custom skate graphic celebrating the achievements and life of Willie O’Ree, the National Hockey League’s first Black player. Built as part of the skate’s boot, the design features an image of O’Ree and inspirational phrases related to the movement for equality. Skates with this design will be worn on the ice by several NHL players across the league this week.
Recognizing Black History Month, Bauer Hockey designed a custom skate graphic honoring Willie O’Ree, the NHL’s first Black player, which will be worn by several NHL players during February.
“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,” said Kim Davis, NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Social Impact, Growth Initiatives, and Legislative Affairs. “We are proud to have worked with Bauer on this project, which adds to the month-long 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.”
A limited number of the historic O’Ree BAUER skates were built and assembled at the BAUER Innovation Center in Blainville, QC. The graphic was designed and inspired by Terry Smith of Terry Smith Creations, pro hockey players Wayne Simmonds and J.T. Brown, and Eustace King, an NHLPA agent and Managing Partner of O2K Sports Management. Smith, who also created the San Jose Sharks logo, was the lead designer on the O’Ree BAUER skate. With Willie’s No. 22 anchored on the heel of the boot, BAUER honors the Hall of Famer with his image and the date of his first game on one side and on the other side features words like respect, equality, BLM and diversity.
“I think of Willie O’Ree like an astronaut,” said Wayne Simmonds of the Toronto Maple Leafs. “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.”
O’Ree, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder in 2018, made history on January 18, 1958, when he laced up his skates for the Boston Bruins in a game against the Montreal Canadiens. Recognizing this historic milestone – as well as Willie’s contributions to the game, which include serving as the NHL’s Diversity Ambassador, a role in which he has introduced more than 130,000 boys and girls from underrepresented backgrounds to the sport of hockey – Bauer Hockey will debut this skate during Black History Month. Several NHL players will celebrate Willie by wearing the skate on the ice.
“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. It’s a recognition of the barriers Willie O’Ree broke down in 1958, as well as his life of service as one of the best ambassadors our game has ever seen,” said Ed Kinnaly, CEO of Peak Achievement Athletics, which owns Bauer Hockey. “On and off the ice, Willie’s contributions have helped grow our game and make it even more inclusive and welcoming for everyone.”
Game-worn skates will be auctioned through the NHL’s auction program, and BAUER created commemorative O’Ree skate t-shirts that are available at BAUER.com. All the proceeds will benefit the Black Girl Hockey Club (BGHC), a non-profit dedicated to uniting Black women in the hockey community and making hockey even more welcoming.
“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,” said Renee Hess, Black Girl Hockey Club Executive Director. “Willie O’Ree continues to inspire generations of hockey fans with his tenacity and love of the game, and BGHC is excited to uphold his legacy with our work.”