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The Embassy of Canada and the National Hockey League to Host Black History Month Celebration Honouring Willie O’Ree

Feb 27, 2019
Press Release
Reception Will Highlight O’Ree’s Contribution to the Sport as the First Black Player in the League

WASHINGTON – Tonight, David MacNaughton, Canada’s Ambassador to the United States, and Gary Bettman, Commissioner of the National Hockey League (NHL) will co-host a reception, with honored guests from the Congressional Hockey Caucus (CHC), to celebrate the story and accomplishments of Willie O’Ree, the first black hockey player to compete in the NHL, and announce pending legislation to award him with the Congressional Gold Medal. 

“As a lifelong hockey fan and player and Chair of the Congressional Hockey Caucus, it is a pleasure to recognize the extraordinary hockey player, historic barrier breaker, and dedicated activist Willie O’Ree,” said Rep. Quigley. “He deserves fierce admiration for his achievements both off and on the ice, which is why in the coming days, the Hockey Caucus is excited to introduce the Willie O’Ree Congressional Gold Medal Act to formally recognize his outstanding career and life’s work.”

Willie O’Ree, who made his NHL debut on Jan.18, 1958, playing for the Boston Bruins against the Montreal Canadiens in the Montreal Forum, is a trailblazer who paved the way for the players of diverse ethnic backgrounds who have succeeded him in the subsequent 60 years. In his roles as NHL Diversity Ambassador and Director of Youth Development over the last 20 years, O’Ree has helped establish 39 local grassroots hockey programs and inspired countless young people to play the game in its many forms. O’Ree, the first black player ever to play in the National Hockey League, was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Nov. 12, 2018 in the Builders category.

WHAT:                    Black History Month Reception Honouring NHL Legend Willie O’Ree and announcing pending legislation to award him with the Congressional Gold Medal


WHO:                     Ambassador David MacNaughton, Embassy of Canada

                                Commissioner Gary Bettman, NHL

                                Congressman Mike Quigley (D-IL)

                                Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA)

                                Congressman Danny Davis (D-IL)

                                Congressman Tom Emmer (R-MN)

                                Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX)

                                Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA)

                                Congressman Joseph Morelle (D-NY)

                                Congressman Pete Stauber (R-MN)

                                Willie O’Ree, Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2018

                                Additional guests to be confirmed


WHEN:                 Wednesday, February 27, 2019


WHERE:               Embassy of Canada, 501 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

MEDIA:                 Media are invited to attend and encouraged to RSVP to


**Broadcast media to arrive at 6:00pm via Embassy loading dock on C Street for screening and set-up


Media Contacts:

Michelle Mahoney

Media Relations Officer, Embassy of Canada



Caleb Randall-Bodman

Director, Forbes Tate Partners



Tara Vales

Communications Director, Rep. Quigley



Kalina Francis

Communications Director, Rep. Pressley