This is long overdue!
The U.S. Senate just passed a bill to honor the first Black NHL player with a Congressional Gold Medal, Blavity reports.
Willie O’Ree debuted with the Boston Bruins in 1958, making history as the first Black player in the National Hockey League (NHL). He went on to play two seasons with Boston before playing 13 years in the Western Hockey League. He eventually retired in 1979, championing inclusion in the league by becoming the NHL’s first diversity ambassador in 1998. During his time, he launched 39 hockey programs teaching more than 120,000 children to play the game.
In 2018, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. In 2019, a documentary about his life was released. Earlier this year, the Bruins honored him by retiring his jersey. He is only the 12th player in history to receive this distinction. The Senate has passed a bill set to celebrate the pioneering hockey player with the Congressional Gold Medal.
Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) and Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) first introduced the bill back in February. This week, the bill received unanimous support in the Senate, with Stabenow referring to O’Ree as a “trailblazer for young people across the country.
“He has also been a leader in the community, including his leadership through the Hockey Is For Everyone programs he championed in Detroit and around Michigan. Willie O’Ree has set an example for all of us as Americans,” Stabenow said.
Kim Davis, NHL Senior Executive VP of Social Impact, Growth Initiatives, and Legislative Affairs, echoed Stabenow’s sentiments.
“Willie O’ Ree has been committed to hockey for decades, and his impressive list of accolades and achievement is reflective of his dedication to inspire young people across America,” Davis said.
Davis has teamed up with O’Ree on several occasions to help champion diversity and inclusion for younger generations in the century-old organization. The Congressional Gold Medal is awarded to those who have made significant contributions to American society. O’Ree will join past recipients such as Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, and Martin Luther King Jr., who have received the distinguished honor.
Currently, the bill is awaiting approval from the House.
Congratulations, Mr. O’Ree!
Photo Courtesy of The St. Louis American