If you notice small things like hockey equipment, you’ll notice that Patrick Kane is wearing new skates tonight. Kane is one of many players that will be wearing special edition Bauer Hockey skates to honor Willie O’Ree this week in honor of Black History Month.
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) February 18, 2021
O’Ree was the first Black hockey player in NHL history, playing with the Boston Bruins and making his NHL debut in January of 1958. The skates were designed by Terry Smith, with collaborations from J.T Brown, Wayne Simmonds, and NHLPA Agent Eustace King.
From the press release:
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.
Willie O’Ree is a hockey icon and hero who blazed a trail for future generations.
To honor the profound impact Willie made and continues to have on our sport, we partnered with @Simmonds17, @JTBrown23, Designer Terry Smith and NHL Agent Eustace King to create custom skates. pic.twitter.com/LrT3jsPN1F
— BAUER Hockey (@BauerHockey) February 17, 2021
The skates worn this week, as well as custom designed Bauer shirts, will be auctioned off to help raise funds for Black Girl Hockey Club, a non-profit dedicated to uniting Black women in the hockey community and make hockey even more welcoming.
— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) February 17, 2021
The skates look awesome and the initiatives they will support are fantastic in the efforts to grow the sport beyond it’s niche audience. The NHL and the sport of hockey has a long way to go in diversifying its fan base and those involved in the sport. It would be great to see the league partner more often with organizations like Black Girl Hockey Club to work towards being a more inclusive and welcoming community.