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S. 452: Willie O’Ree Congressional Gold Medal Act

The text of the bill below is as of Jan 14, 2022 (Preprint (Suspension)).

                      S. 452

                     AN ACT
To award a Congressional Gold Medal to Willie O’Ree, in
   recognition of his extraordinary contributions and com-
   mitment to hockey, inclusion, and recreational oppor-

 1      Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representa-
 2 tives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

2 1 SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE. 2 This Act may be cited as the ‘‘Willie O’Ree Congres- 3 sional Gold Medal Act’’. 4 SEC. 2. FINDINGS. 5 Congress finds the following: 6 (1) Willie O’Ree was the first Black player to 7 compete in the National Hockey League (NHL), ap- 8 pearing for the Boston Bruins on January 18, 1958, 9 in the throes of the civil rights movement in the 10 United States helping to end racial segregation in 11 the premier professional ice hockey league; he is 12 widely referred to as the ‘‘Jackie Robinson of Hock- 13 ey’’. 14 (2) Willie O’Ree was born October 15, 1935, in 15 Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada; he is the 16 youngest of 13 children and a descendant of Paris 17 O’Ree, whose name appears in the famous historical 18 document ‘‘The Book of Negroes’’. 19 (3) Willie O’Ree was raised by his parents in 20 Fredericton, a predominantly White town where 21 hockey was deeply rooted within the culture. O’Ree 22 was a standout athlete on the ice and the baseball 23 diamond. 24 (4) At age 21, O’Ree was being scouted by pro- 25 fessional baseball teams and seriously considered 26 baseball as a career. Upon experiencing the seg- † S 452 ES
3 1 regated South for the first time while appearing for 2 a minor league tryout, his dream changed and his 3 attention turned solely to ice hockey. 4 (5) While playing amateur hockey, Willie was 5 struck in his right eye with a puck and lost his eye- 6 sight. He was told by doctors to abandon his hockey 7 career; instead, never disclosing the extent of his in- 8 jury, he pursued his dream of playing professional 9 hockey. 10 (6) At the age of 22, O’Ree was called up from 11 the Quebec Aces of the Quebec Hockey League 12 (QHL) to play for the NHL’s Boston Bruins at a 13 time when only 6 teams existed in the league. O’Ree 14 was unaware he had broken the color barrier at the 15 top level of the sport until he read it in the news- 16 paper the following day. 17 (7) Blind in 1 eye and a victim of racism at 18 times throughout his career, O’Ree persevered and 19 played professional hockey for 22 years, tallying over 20 1,000 points. 21 (8) In 1996, 17 years after O’Ree retired from 22 professional hockey, the National Hockey League 23 hired O’Ree as the first-ever Diversity Ambassador. 24 Having already changed the game forever through † S 452 ES
4 1 his courage and convictions, O’Ree gives new defini- 2 tion to what it means to be a trailblazer. 3 (9) In this role as Diversity Ambassador with 4 the NHL, O’Ree set out to grow the sport by pro- 5 viding access, opportunity, and motivation for chil- 6 dren of all races, ethnicities, origins, and abilities. 7 With O’Ree providing a vivid example of what is 8 possible and serving as a relentless supporter of chil- 9 dren pursuing their dreams, more than 30 nonprofit 10 youth organizations, dubbed Hockey is for Everyone 11 programs, were developed across North America, 12 each committed to offering minority and under- 13 served children an opportunity to play hockey, 14 leveraging the sport to build character, foster posi- 15 tive values, and develop important life skills. 16 (10) Through Hockey is for Everyone pro- 17 grams, more than 120,000 boys and girls have been 18 positively impacted. O’Ree has devoted nearly 2,500 19 days on the ground with the youth participants, vis- 20 iting more than 500 schools, community centers, and 21 rinks to speak to hockey’s core values and beliefs: 22 stay in school; set goals for yourself; remain com- 23 mitted and disciplined; and always respect your 24 teammates, coaches, and parents. † S 452 ES
5 1 (11) Hockey is for Everyone programs have 2 provided important opportunities for youth to par- 3 take in physical fitness. Today in the United States, 4 fewer than half of the children ages 6–11 engage in 5 the recommended amount of physical activity, and 6 that number is lower for low-income families. O’Ree 7 has stood as a champion of youth athletic participa- 8 tion and its health benefits for decades. 9 (12) Hockey is for Everyone programs provide 10 numerous off-ice services to youth: SAT and aca- 11 demic tutoring, mentoring, nutrition education, col- 12 lege counseling, community service opportunities, 13 and more. The program has excelled at using hockey 14 as a vehicle to improve the social and emotional 15 wellness of youth and improve students’ academic 16 performances both in primary school and beyond. 17 (13) O’Ree was also named a Member of the 18 Order of Canada in 2008 and, in 2018, the City of 19 Boston released an official Proclamation recognizing 20 January 18, the anniversary of the day he broke 21 into the game, as ‘‘Willie O’Ree Day’’. 22 (14) In November 2018, 60 years after O’Ree 23 entered the NHL, he was inducted into the Hockey 24 Hall of Fame in the ‘‘builder’’ category in recogni- 25 tion of his efforts to grow the game, using his posi- † S 452 ES
6 1 tion and the platform of hockey to improve the lives 2 of children throughout North America. 3 SEC. 3. CONGRESSIONAL GOLD MEDAL. 4 (a) AWARD AUTHORIZED.—The Speaker of the 5 House of Representatives and the President pro tempore 6 of the Senate shall make appropriate arrangements for the 7 award, on behalf of the Congress, of a single gold medal 8 of appropriate design to Willie O’Ree, or if unavailable, 9 to a member of his family, in recognition of his extraor- 10 dinary contributions and commitment to hockey, inclusion, 11 and recreational opportunity. 12 (b) DESIGN AND STRIKING.—For the purposes of the 13 award referred to in subsection (a), the Secretary of the 14 Treasury (hereafter in this Act referred to as the ‘‘Sec- 15 retary’’) shall strike the gold medal with suitable emblems, 16 devices, and inscriptions, to be determined by the Sec- 17 retary. The design shall bear an image of, and an inscrip- 18 tion of the name of, Willie O’Ree. 19 SEC. 4. DUPLICATE MEDALS. 20 (a) IN GENERAL.—The Secretary may strike and sell 21 duplicates in bronze of the gold medal struck under sec- 22 tion 3, at a price sufficient to cover the costs of the med- 23 als, including labor, materials, dies, use of machinery, and 24 overhead expenses. † S 452 ES
7 1 (b) PROCEEDS OF SALES.—The amounts received 2 from the sale of duplicate medals under subsection (a) 3 shall be deposited in the United States Mint Public Enter- 4 prise Fund. 5 (c) AUTHORITY TO USE FUND AMOUNTS.—There is 6 authorized to be charged against the United States Mint 7 Public Enterprise Fund such amounts as may be nec- 8 essary to pay for the costs of the medals struck under 9 this Act. 10 SEC. 5. STATUS OF MEDALS. 11 (a) NATIONAL MEDAL.—The medals struck pursuant 12 to this Act are national medals for purposes of chapter 13 51 of title 31, United States Code. 14 (b) NUMISMATIC ITEMS.—For purposes of section 15 5134 of title 31, United States Code, all medals struck 16 under this Act shall be considered to be numismatic items. Passed the Senate July 27, 2021. Attest: Secretary. † S 452 ES
117TH CONGRESS 1ST SESSION S. 452 AN ACT To award a Congressional Gold Medal to Willie O’Ree, in recognition of his extraordinary con- tributions and commitment to hockey, inclusion, and recreational opportunity.