House Approves Bill To Award Willie O’Ree Congressional Gold Medal
In SummaryThe bill, which passed the House and Senate unanimously, now heads to the desk of President Joe Biden for final approval.
Willie O’Ree, the first Black man to play in the National Hockey League, is one step closer to receiving a Congressional Gold medal.
According to The Hill, In a 426-0 vote, the House approved a bill to give O’Ree the award. This comes after the Senate unanimously passed the bill in July.
Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow from Michigan and Republican Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina introduced the legislation in February 2021. Stabenow and Scott introduced the bill to honor O’Ree and his contributions to the National Hockey League, where he played for the Boston Bruins.
He was also the league’s first diversity ambassador, devoting his time to make sure the sport was accessible to all with his Hockey is for Everyone program. Since its creation, it has supported dozens of organizations that work to help children from minority and underserved communities get a chance to play the sport.
The Congressional Gold Medal is awarded to people or groups for their distinguished achievements and contributions. O’Ree was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018, largely for his accomplishments off the ice, where he helped create a new generation of both hockey players and fans, NHL.com reported.
On Jan. 18, the Boston Bruins retired O’Ree’s No. 22 jersey, making him the 12th player in franchise history to reach the accomplishment.
“Willie O’Ree was a young and fast left-winger. But he could not out-skate the racist backlash in response to his desegregating the National Hockey League,” Pressley said. “As the sole Black player in the NHL at the time, Willie endured relentless bigotry, racism, discrimination and even violence from fans and players, both and off the ice. And despite it all, Willie embodied resilience, grace, dignity, and never gave up on the determination to live out his dream.”