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Willie O'Ree to lead NHL delegation at Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Legislative Conference

First black player in the NHL to attend gathering Sept. 21-24 in Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, 09.20.2011 / 12:30 PM / Hockey is for Everyone
NEW YORK -- The National Hockey League (NHL) today announced plans to send representatives and hockey ambassadors to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's 41st Annual Legislative Conference, marking the first time the hockey community has had a formal presence at the annual public policy gathering.

Among those in attendance will be NHL legend and Hockey is for Everyone™ Ambassador Willie O'Ree, NHL Vice President of Community Affairs Kenneth Martin, Jr., NHL Network analyst and NHL alumnus Kevin Weekes and local Washington, D.C., youth hockey coaching legend and 2010 Bridgestone Mark Messier Leadership Award recipient Neal Henderson. Washington Capitals forward Joel Ward is scheduled to attend the Phoenix Awards Dinner on Saturday, Sept. 24.

The annual legislative conference brings together African-American intellectuals and others focused on policy and legislative issues. The NHL will join thousands of elected officials and sports industry executives, celebrities, media and other emerging leaders at dozens of policy forums, general sessions, exhibits and vast networking opportunities. The event will take place Sept. 21-24 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. 

"We are honored to attend this tremendous event and so very pleased that the National Hockey League, for the first time ever, will have a formal presence at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Annual Legislative Conference," Martin said. "We are proud to present these hockey legends and look forward to participating and exploring additional opportunities for more boys and girls of all backgrounds to play our great sport."

Willie O'Ree currently serves as the NHL's Director of Youth Development, a post he has held since January 1998. On Jan. 18, 1958, playing for the Boston Bruins against the Montreal Canadiens, he became the first black person to play in the NHL...an extraordinary event that paved the way for future players of diverse ethnic and economic backgrounds. Kevin Weekes, a 14-year veteran of professional hockey, including 12 NHL seasons, is the first black person to host national television coverage of the NHL. Weekes is dedicated to numerous causes and initiatives throughout North America, including community and grassroots efforts to diversify the sport of hockey. Neal Henderson founded the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club in Washington, D.C., the oldest minority youth hockey program in the country which endeavors, via hockey, to teach young people discipline, establish self-esteem and a sense of purpose and to offer an incentive to excel academically.

The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. (CBCF) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy, research and educational institute that aims to help improve the socioeconomic circumstances of African Americans and other underserved communities. Founded in 1976 and based in Washington, D.C., CBCF envisions a world in which the black community is free of all disparities and able to contribute fully to advancing the common good. Its mission is to advance the global black community by developing leaders, informing policy and educating the public. For more information, please visit www.cbcfinc.org.


It means a lot to us, we're very excited. We're looking to continue to build on [our] top core talent of young players. It's just a great opportunity for us to really build high.

— Panthers vice president of hockey operations Travis Viola after Florida won the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft Lottery