Walter Bush, a legend in the sport of hockey in Minnesota and the United States, passed away on Thursday.
He was 86.
Bush served as president of USA Hockey for nearly two decades and was instrumental in bringing the NHL to Minnesota when he helped found the North Stars.
"We join the hockey community in mourning the loss of one of our greatest ambassadors," Wild owner Craig Leipold said. "Walter's leadership and passion for hockey were simply unmatched. Fifty years ago, he led the expansion effort that created the North Stars, ushering the NHL into Minnesota. Throughout his life, he never stopped pushing for the advancement of the game across all ranks and levels.
"On behalf of the State of Hockey, we are grateful for his tireless contributions to our sport and offer our heartfelt condolences to his family, to USA Hockey and to all who were impacted by his lifelong commitment to the game."
A native of Minneapolis, Bush played high school hockey at Breck School then at Dartmouth College before returning home to attend the University of Minnesota law school. Less than a decade later, Bush continued his involvement in the game as an executive, first as one of the creators of the Central Hockey League in 1955, then as general manager of United States national hockey team.
He was an important voice in helping construct both the 1960 Olympic hockey team, known as "The Forgotten Miracle," and the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" team.
In between, his work with the Amateur Hockey Association of the United States and his efforts to bring professional hockey to Minnesota helped grow the game both locally and nationally.
Elected to the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 1980 and the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto in 2000, Bush was also a driving force behind the addition of women's hockey as an Olympic sport, beginning with the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan.
"Walter Bush was a formidable presence at all levels of the hockey world," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "Walter made important and lasting contributions to the sport. His impact was felt, nationally and internationally, in the professional and the amateur ranks, in women's hockey as well as men's. He helped launch the Minnesota North Stars, helped found the Central Hockey League, worked tirelessly to get women's hockey into the Olympics and properly earned global respect for his devotion to the growth of hockey everywhere.
"Most important, Walter was a wonderful man -- loved and respected and a delight to be with. The NHL family sends thoughts of condolence and comfort to Walter's family and many friends."