MINNEAPOLIS -- Walter Bush, the former USA Hockey president and primary founder of the Minnesota North Stars, died Thursday. He was 86.
USA Hockey confirmed Bush's death, saying: "Hockey mourns tonight the passing of USA Hockey's Walter Bush, a pioneer in the game and one of the most beloved figures in the sport."
The Minneapolis native was enshrined into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 1980, the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2000, and the IIHF Hall of Fame in 2009. Awarded the Olympic Order in 2002, he managed the 1959 U.S. national team and 1964 U.S. Olympic team, serving on the U.S. Olympic Committee in 1963.
Bush was selected the NHL's Executive of the Year in 1972 by The Hockey News, and won the Lester Patrick Trophy in 1973 for his contributions to the sport in the United States. As USA Hockey president, Bush played a large role in the addition of women's hockey to the Olympics in 1998.
"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."
Bush played high school hockey at Breck School and was a hockey and football player in college at Dartmouth. While working on his law degree at the University of Minnesota, he helped start the Central Hockey League in 1955. He served as league's commissioner for three seasons and, at one point, owned, managed and coached the Minneapolis Bruins.
With the North Stars, Bush directed the merger with the Cleveland Barons in 1978. The Stars franchise now plays in Dallas.
Bush also owned the American Hockey League's Kentucky Thoroughblades.