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Gregory lauded, remembered by Bettman, NHL luminaries

Sittler, Babcock among those to recall stories of longtime hockey executive, who died Wednesday at 83

NHL.com @NHLdotcom

Jim Gregory, Hockey Hall of Famer, former Toronto Maple Leafs general manager and a League executive for four decades, died Wednesday at the age of 83.

Gregory left an incredible impact on the game and those who played it, coached it and worked in hockey. Here are condolences and memories from around the hockey world:

Gary Bettman, NHL Commissioner 

"It is impossible to express the extent to which the National Hockey League family adored Jim Gregory and the loss we feel as a result of his passing. Jim Gregory wasn't just a great 'hockey man,' though he certainly was that. He was a great man -- a devoted husband to Rosalie, his wife of 60 years; father to Andrea, Valerie, Maureen and David; grandfather of 13; and mentor and friend to too many to number.

"Jim was one of the first to welcome me to the NHL almost 27 years ago and I have treasured his friendship and relied upon his wisdom every day since. Nobody loved the game more. Nobody ever served it better. We will miss him terribly."

Darryl Sittler, Maple Leafs Hall of Fame forward 

"There's not many people who you can say you've been friends with for almost 50 years, but that was the case with Jim."

Bernie Parent, Hall of Fame goalie who was traded to the Maple Leafs and from the Maple Leafs to the Philadelphia Flyers by Gregory

"I'm so grateful that Jim came into my life at the right place and the right time and that he was a part of my life as I was a part of his.


1971-72 Toronto Maple Leafs. GM Jim Gregory is in the front row, third from left, goalie Bernie Parent is in the second row, far right, his boyhood idol and mentor Jacques Plante second row far left.

 

"If Jim thought a lot of me, I can tell you that the feeling was very mutual. Jim and I didn't really socialize that much -- he was GM and I was a player -- but he was responsible for having me play with [Jacques] Plante, which changed my whole career. I saw Jim at quite a few NHL events the last couple of years. He'd just look me in the eyes and smile. It was so powerful. Just to see Jim, talk to him and give him a big hug was such a beautiful thing.

"In life, there's the day you're born and the day you're going to leave. But it's what you do in between. Jim was a great manager and a great ambassador for the National Hockey League. He was a very, very classy person. I loved him dearly."

Dan Marr, director of NHL Central Scouting

"Jim Gregory was a remarkable one of a kind man in that he was so passionate and supportive of hockey -- there was no event or game too small that he would not endeavor to support, and everyone involved in the game, he treated with kindness and respect to let them know they were meaningful in their role and that working hard would always pay off.

"Being brought up in the same home town (Dunnville, Ontario) and knowing his family and relatives in town, I grew up following his tenure as Maple Leafs GM and his career with the NHL starting with NHL Central Scouting. Jim was instrumental in getting me an interview for my first job in hockey which is something he has done for countless people in the hockey world, and it is an honor to hold the same position with NHL Central Scouting and having had the opportunity to spend time with him as a colleague. The one thing that Jim always appreciated and would share is how wonderful and privileged it was to be able to start each day working in the hockey business ... it's a sentiment that he embraced and made sure all who worked alongside him appreciated as well."

Dick Irvin Jr., former longtime Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee member, recipient of Hall's 1988 Foster Hewitt Memorial Award for hockey broadcasting excellence

"Jim certainly was an 'éminence grise' at every selection meeting that we ever had, except for the year (2007) that we elected him (as a Builder) and told him to leave the room. In hockey, including his work with the Hall of Fame, he certainly was one of the most knowledgeable guys I ever met. No matter what you wanted to talk about, Jim seemed to know what you were talking about and could contribute. He never backed off a conversation. He was a very good guy to be around."

Brendan Shanahan, Toronto Maple Leafs president and alternate governor

"The Toronto Maple Leafs are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Jim Gregory. Jim was one of the great gentlemen of hockey. He was a friend to so many within the game -- the Leafs, the League, the Hall of Fame and beyond. His friendships and contributions to hockey were so deeply rooted. He was a living, breathing piece of hockey history. He will be greatly missed." 

John Davidson, New York Rangers president 

"I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Jim Gregory, one of the most influential people to ever be associated with the National Hockey League and the game of hockey. As a team executive and as a member of the NHL's Hockey Operations department, he helped advance the game in countless ways. In working with him on the Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee, I was able to witness firsthand how he always conducted himself with humility and class. Above all else, Jim was unquestionably one of the finest gentlemen I've had the pleasure of knowing. On behalf of the New York Rangers organization, I would like to send our deepest condolences to Jim's wife, Rosalie, and the entire Gregory family."

Bill Davidge, Columbus Blue Jackets analyst, ambassador

"RIP Jim Gregory . You were my idol, allowing and believing in me on my path to the NHL. You will be sorely missed. #DunnvilleStrong"

Mike Babcock, Maple Leafs coach 

"Unbelievable human being. He was a Hockey Hall of Famer and we all know all that stuff, but he was a family man, a husband, a grandfather, a dad. I'd catch him in the parking lot or at the rink in the stands and what a conversation you'd have every time. He just made you feel good, he loved the game and loved being around. He was a kind, kind soul and he'll be really missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, we're thinking about them.

"He's a warm person who made you feel important and was a good listener. I don't know, I just liked being around him. Every time I saw him, it made you feel good to have a conversation with him. When you do what I do for a living, and he's a guy who has walked a mile in your mukluk to say the least, he's a good guy to talk to because he has an understanding of what's going on and he's been in Toronto a long time. Just a good, good person."

Aaron Ward, former NHL player 

"Heartfelt condolences to Jim Gregory's family over his passing. There's no better man and no better ambassador that represented the NHL so honorably. He was everywhere, at every event, and he'd immediately make you smile just seeing him. That says enough about the man. #RIP"

Cassie Campbell-Pascall, Canadian player, Sportsnet broadcaster

"RIP to Mr. Jim Gregory. He was always so good to me over the years and supportive of me around the NHL circles right from the beginning."

Ray Shero, New Jersey Devils general manager 

"A wonderful, caring, first-class person. Fortunately, most people in hockey have had a chance to cross paths with Jim Gregory. His son, David, is a great extension of his father and the Gregory legacy in hockey."

Video: Teams around the NHL pay tribute to Jim Gregory

Chuck Fletcher, Philadelphia Flyers general manager 

"The Flyers are saddened to hear of the passing of Jim Gregory. He was truly a legend in our sport. His innovation and dedication throughout the many years of service to the National Hockey League, in every capacity, has left a lasting imprint and helped shape the game as we know it.

"Personally, I had the privilege of knowing Mr. Gregory for most of my life. He was a thoughtful, caring man who always took the time to help others. His guidance, insight and sense of humor will be greatly missed by everyone who was fortunate enough to spend time with him. I will miss him dearly, as will all who knew him. Our deepest condolences go out to his wife, Rosalie, and his entire family."

Glenn Healy, executive director, NHL Alumni Association

"Jim was absolutely a magnificent man. When we look at what is right in our sport, and who should be considered a true ambassador for what our game is all about, what's embodied in our game, Jim was the guy. He's the guy who made sense of everything. It was always sensible to follow in his footsteps. Our game is full of characters, but none better than Jim Gregory."

John Shannon, former Sportsnet analyst 

"So sorry to hear about the passing of Jim Gregory. The word GREAT is thrown around all too often, but not with Jim. His impact on hockey was tremendous. He made his mark and made the game better, with a smile on his face. He became a true and loyal friend...we will all miss him."

Christine Simpson, reporter for Sportsnet, "Hockey Night in Canada"

"So saddened to hear of the passing of Jim Gregory. A respected hockey man and wonderful friend. A Hall of Famer in every way. My condolences to the entire Gregory family."

Brian Lawton, NHL Network analyst, No. 1 pick in 1983 NHL Draft

"When you get drafted into the NHL, one person you quickly meet and immediately realize is a fantastic human is Jim Gregory. He touched a lot of people's hearts. My thoughts and prayers are with his family. #classact"

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