Jack Butterfield, whose six decades of service to the American Hockey League included a record 28-year term as president, passed away on Saturday morning in Springfield, Mass. He was 91 years old.
A native of Regina, Sask., Butterfield was given his start in the AHL by his uncle, hockey legend Eddie Shore
, but wasted little time establishing his own legacy. After serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II, Butterfield worked for Shore's New Haven Eagles as a public relations executive and trainer. Following stints in the USHL and WHL, Butterfield returned to the AHL with the Springfield Indians, for whom he later served as both coach and general manager. He remains the only GM in league history to oversee three consecutive Calder Cup championships (1960, 1961, 1962).
Butterfield assumed the AHL presidency in 1966 and is widely credited with keeping the league alive during the difficult period of NHL expansion and the conflict created by the formation of the World Hockey Association in the 1970s.
"Our deepest sympathies are extended to Jack's wife Nina and the entire Butterfield family," said AHL president and CEO David Andrews, who assumed the role when Butterfield stepped down in 1994. "The American Hockey League would not exist today were it not for the efforts of Jack Butterfield during his tenure as president. He is a hockey legend and his contributions will forever be honored by the AHL."
A 1980 inductee to the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder, Butterfield later received the NHL's prestigious Lester Patrick
Award in 1985 for outstanding service to hockey in the United States. He was a two-time winner (1971, 1984) of the AHL's James C. Hendy Award as the league's outstanding executive; the inaugural winner of the AHL's Thomas Ebright Award in 1988 for career contributions to the league; and since 1984, the AHL's Calder Cup Playoffs MVP award has been named in Butterfield's honor.
Butterfield received the league's highest recognition in 2006 when he was inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame as a member of the inaugural class of honorees.
Funeral arrangements are pending.