Willie O’Ree Congressional Gold Medal Act Signed into Law by President Joe Biden

Erin WalshFebruary 1, 2022

FILE - Willie O'Ree arrives for a meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 25, 2019. O'Ree says the ongoing pandemic hasn't diminished what he says will be a "simply amazing" honor watching his No. 22 jersey retired by the Bruins. O'Ree, who became the first Black NHL player on Jan. 18, 1958, was slated to attend when he became the 12th player in team history to have his number retired prior to Boston's game against Carolina on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022. But persisting concerns about the pandemic changed those plans. He will now participate from his home in San Diego. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File

President Joe Biden on Monday signed legislation into law honoring Willie O'Ree, who became the first Black player to appear in an NHL game, with a Congressional Gold Medal.

The news comes after the House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill to award the Medal to O'Ree. 

The 86-year-old was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal "in recognition of his extraordinary contributions and commitment to hockey, inclusion and recreational opportunity."

Mike Quigley @RepMikeQuigley

Willie O'Ree integrated the sport of hockey by becoming the first black player to play in the NHL.<br><br>Today, <a href="https://twitter.com/POTUS?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@POTUS</a> signed into law my legislation honoring O'Ree with the Congressional Gold Medal. <br><br>O'Ree has proven to the world that no dream is too big. <a href="https://t.co/MQyGEXLIEh">pic.twitter.com/MQyGEXLIEh</a>

O'Ree became the first Black player to skate in an NHL game when he took the ice for the Boston Bruins in January 1958. He played just two games for the Black and Gold in 1957-58 before being sent back down to the minors. 

O'Ree returned to the Bruins for the 1960-61 season, appearing in 43 games. He tallied four goals and 10 assists in 45 career games. 

The New Brunswick native has had a large impact off the ice as well, serving as the NHL's director of youth development and an ambassador for diversity.

The Bruins recently honored O'Ree by retiring his No. 22. He is just the 12th player in franchise history to have his number hanging in the rafters at TD Garden. 

O'Ree was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018.