The first Black hockey player with an outstanding career with the National Hockey League (NHL) is finally receiving his flowers.
The Senate has passed a bill to award Willie O’Ree, 85, with a Congressional Gold Medal. O’Ree started his professional career in the NHL for the Boston Bruins in 1958.
The hockey icon was the NHL’s first diversity ambassador in 1998. Since then, he has made a huge impact with the NHL’s “Hockey is for Everyone” youth hockey program.
Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) first introduced the bill back in February. The Senate unanimously passed the bill and now is heading to the House Of Representatives.
“From the hockey arena to serving young athletes in his community, Willie O’Ree’s legacy has inspired generations,” Scott stated.
“Willie’s career didn’t end on the ice; it was punctuated by the generations of athletes he helped navigate the path he paved. Following the Senate’s unanimous passage, I look forward to the House acting quickly on this well-deserved recognition of Willie’s historic achievements.”
Stabenow declared O’Ree as a “trailblazer for young people across the country.” Adding, “Willie O’Ree has set an example for all of us as Americans.”
“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,” she said.
Chairman of the NHL board of governors and owner of the Boston Bruins, Jeremy M. Jacobs, said the Bruins are proud of its long-standing relationship with O’Ree, whom he called “a tremendous figure in hockey both on and off the ice.”