Congress Passes Bill To Honor Willie O'Ree, The First Black NHL Player

Photo: Getty Images

The US House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday (January 19) that paves the way to honor the first Black hockey player with the Congressional Gold Medal.

Willie O'Ree made history on January 18, 1958 in what would be his NHL debut with the Boston Bruins against the Montreal Canadiens at the Montreal Forum, becoming the first Black NHL player in history.

The US Senate passed the Willie O'Ree Congressional Gold Medal Act in July 2021, initiating the process. Now that both chambers have officially passed the bill, it will go to President Joe Biden for his signature.

News of the House's passage of the bill came just one day after the Boston Bruins officially retired the No. 22 jersey in a ceremony for the 86-year-old.

"Receiving the Congressional Gold Medal is simply one of the greatest honors of my life," O'Ree said, according to the NHL. "There are no words to describe how special the last few days have been, with the Boston Bruins retiring my number and US Congress voting for this amazing recognition.

"I will always be humbled and grateful to be a recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal, and I am especially thankful to everyone who worked so hard to make this moment happen."

O'Ree will join MLB pioneer Jackie Robinson, Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta Scott King and more in receiving the Gold Medal.

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