The Hockey Hall of Fame inducted O'Ree in 2018 under the "Builder" category, defined as "coaching, managerial or executive ability, or ability in another significant off-ice role, sportsmanship, character and contributions to his or her organization or organizations and to the game of hockey in general".
O'Ree will be the 12th Bruins player to have his number retired to the TD Garden rafters.
NHL players will wear decals on their helmets to commemorate the anniversary of O'Ree's accomplishment and observe Martin Luther King Day on January 18, a United States national holiday that honors the late civil rights leader.
The decal features an image of O'Ree wearing his trademark fedora and the words "Celebrating Equality".
Bruins CEO Charlie Jacobs said O'Ree's contributions to the game go well beyond becoming the first Black player in National Hockey League history when he played for Bruins against the Montreal Canadiens at the Forum in Montreal on January 18, 1958. He was sent back down after two games.
Willie O'Ree, who broke the NHL's color barrier, is set have his jersey retired by the Boston Bruins. "That's how focused I was on making my dream come true. I did not realize I had made history until I read it in the paper the next day".
O'Ree rejoined the Bruins in 1960-61 and played in 43 games that season. He played professional hockey for 21 seasons - including 13 in the WHL - before retiring in 1979.
Since 1998, O'Ree has worked for the NHL as a diversity ambassador, focusing on the league's "Hockey Is For Everyone" initiatives. Since then, he has traveled across North America, promoting NHL and youth-level events, and was particularly instrumental in pushing the league's Hockey is for Everyone program, which encourages diversity and inclusion for the sport.