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Willie O’Ree one step closer to Congressional Medal of Honor

Willie O’Ree, known as the “Jackie Robinson of Hockey,” recently moved one step closer to being awarded the Congressional Gold Medal after the Willie O’Ree Congressional Gold Medal Act passed the United States Senate. The bill, which now moves to the U.S. House of Representatives, was introduced as a way to recognize O’Ree for his lifetime of contributions to the sport of hockey and communities across the country. The Congressional Gold Medal is Congress’s highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions by individuals or institutions.

bruins_willieoree-5370067O’Ree played professional hockey for 22 seasons, including for the Boston Bruins, the NHL team owned by Delaware North Chairman Jeremy M. Jacobs.

“As the first Black player in the National Hockey League, Willie O’Ree was a trailblazer for young people across the country,” said Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), who joined Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) in sponsoring the bill. “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.”

In November 2018, after collecting more than 1,000 points over a 22-year professional hockey career, and positively impacting countless lives through his work as the league’s Diversity Ambassador, O’Ree was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in recognition of his efforts to grow the game.

“The Boston Bruins organization is proud of our relationship with Willie, who is a tremendous figure in hockey both on and off the ice. We commend Senators Stabenow and Scott for their steadfast effort in recognizing Willie’s enduring legacy and preserving it for generations to come with Congress’s highest honor,” said Mr. Jacobs, who is also chairman of the NHL Board of Governors.

The Bruins announced earlier this year that the team will honor O’Ree by retiring his No. 22 jersey in a ceremony at TD Garden on January 18, 2022 – 64 years to the date that he became the first Black player in NHL history.