GOP Rep. Tom Emmer's push to award hockey icon Willie O'Ree a Congressional Gold Medal has passed Congress.
The legislation notes that O'Ree made history in 1958 when he became the National Hockey League's first Black player, adding that "he is widely referred to as the 'Jackie Robinson of Hockey.' "
"Willie O'Ree is a legend of the sport. As a lifelong hockey fan, player, and coach, Willie's legacy is captivating and inspiring," Emmer said in a news release earlier this month before the House vote. "He isn't just a trailblazer: Willie's work to make hockey accessible for young people from every walk of life has reinvigorated the sport. I am proud to co-lead this legislation to honor Willie with the Congressional Gold Medal, and give him the place in history he deserves."
The entire Minnesota delegation co-sponsored the legislation in their respective chambers. The Senate unanimously signed off on the bill in 2021 while the House passed the legislation in a 426 to 0 vote last week.
"As the sole black player in the NHL, O'Ree endured racism, bigotry, and prejudice from players and fans on and off the ice," a news release from Emmer's office said. "Despite this, he spent more than twenty-four seasons as a professional player in both the NHL and minor leagues."