Bill honoring first Black NHL player passes Senate

Willie O'Ree
Posted at 9:01 PM, Jul 30, 2021

The first Black player to play in the National Hockey League, Willie O'Ree, is one step closer to being awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

According to the NHL, the Senate passed the bipartisan legislation unanimously on Tuesday. The bill will head to the House for consideration.

The bill, first introduced in 2019 by Michigan Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Republican South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, seeks to honor the hockey icon for his contributions to sports.

"As the first Black player in the National Hockey League, Willie O'Ree was a trailblazer for young people across the country," said Sen. Stabenow. "He has also been a leader in the community, including his leadership through the Hockey is for Everyone programs in Detroit and around Michigan."

The award given to individuals or groups for distinguished achievements and contributions has been awarded to George Washington, Jackie Robinson, and Martin Luther King Jr.

O'Ree first began his professional career in 1958 for the Boston Bruins, despite being legally blind in one eye.

The league tapped O'Ree to become the NHL's first diversity ambassador in 1998.

He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018.