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Hay's passion at grass roots leads to Hall induction

by Mike Brophy / NHL.com

TORONTO -- During his 15 years as the chairman and CEO of the Hockey Hall of Fame, Bill Hay handed out 61 plaques to honored inductees.

Not one of them, he said, ever read what was written on their plaque.

So when Hay received his plaque from chairman John Davidson as part of the Hockey Hall of Fame class of 2015, the first thing he did was read it to the audience.

The plaque highlighted his long career as a player and builder. One year after helping Colorado College win the NCAA championship in 1960, he joined the Chicago Blackhawks and won the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie. The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup that season.

Hay played seven seasons in the NHL and retired at age 31. He has been a hockey executive ever since. Hay was the president of the Calgary Flames and was instrumental in the merger of Hockey Canada and the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association.

Hay was affiliated with the Hockey Hall of Fame for 33 years, including 15 years as chairman and CEO.

"So now you know there is something written on those plaques," Hay said. "Induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame is the highest honor anyone connected with this great game can receive."

Here are three highlights of Hay's speech:

1. Hay's mission

Hay said being inducted in the builder's category is a special honor.

"Development of the game at the grass roots level has always been my focus," Hay said. "As the game progressed and grew and became global in the 1970s and 1980s, its structure, coaching techniques and training had to become more sophisticated. The world had caught up to us and was beating us at our own game."

Hay said changes occurred at the grass roots level, which propelled the game to where it is today.

"My greatest satisfaction has come from helping young players get better," Hay said, "and seeing them grow into outstanding adults and contributors to their communities."

2. The Mighty Quinn

Hay said he was honored to work with hockey giants Daryl "Doc" Seaman and Harley Hotchkiss and he holds a special place in his heart for the late Pat Quinn, who was a player and coach who had success at the NHL and international levels.

"He was a great leader and innovator," Hay said of Quinn. "His sudden passing was devastating, but his contribution to the game will be felt forever."

3. Family Affair

Hay brought a lot of family with him and took the time to introduce them, including his sister Donna, who came to the event from Indiana.

One family member who didn't make the trip was Hay's son, Donald, who is physically handicapped. Hay said they were told Donald would be lucky to live a year when he was born.

"He turned 53 in February and he is everybody's pal," Hay said.

Hay said his wife Nancy is the head of the family. Hay told a story about the time he, Donald and Nancy went to Arizona for a vacation. On the way home, they stopped for gas and Nancy got out of the van to freshen up.

After the van was gassed up, Don Hay got back in and with Donald sitting up front with him, away they went. About a half hour later Donald turned to his dad and said, "Bill, I think we forgot mom."

Sure enough, they did.

Hay turned the van around and when he got back to the gas station, there was Nancy with a bunch of locals cheering.

"She said, 'If you had been 10 more minutes, I would have been a Mormon,'" Hay said.

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