John Ziegler Jr. Former NHL President Passes Away

CANADA - MARCH 27: Still talking: NHL president John Ziegler; left; and NHL players union boss Bob Goodenow enjoyed some meatier exchanges yesterday. (Photo by Keith Beaty/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

The former 4th president of the NHL, John Ziegler Jr. has passed away at age 84. His passing was confirmed in a statement Friday by current NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

John Ziegler Jr. passes away at age 84

John Ziegler, 4th president of the NHL, has passed away. He was living in Florida at the time of his death. The cause of death has not been released. Ziegler served as president for 15 years.

Ziegler, a native of Grosse Pointe, MI., made his way into the NHL through the Detriot Red Wings. He served as vice president, general counsel and alternate governor to the team from 1970 to 1977, before being elected as the first American president of the NHL.

Ziegler’s contributions to the league

During his time as president, Ziegler was vital in guiding the NHL into becoming an international league. In 1979, the NHL merged with the World Hockey Association. Ziegler negotiated the merger, which added the 4 WHA teams, the Edmonton Oilers, Quebec Nordiques, Hartford Whalers, and the Winnipeg Jets, into the NHL.

Under Ziegler’s presidency, the number of European players rose from 2% to 11%. Russian players also found themselves with a foot in the door to playing in the NHL. The league expanded from 18 to 24 teams while he held the position. In 1984, he was awarded the Lester Partick Trophy for his service to hockey in America.

His tenure ended with the controversial ousting of Ziegler after a ten-day strike. The NHL Players Association initiated the strike over playoff bonuses, free agency and pension funds. The labor dispute continued with the 1994-95 NHL lockout. Gil Stein took over as interim president. Gary Bettman ultimately took over to become the first official commissioner in 1993. A role Bettman continues to the present day.

Bettman offered his condolences and spoke fondly of Ziegler in his statement, saying “On a personal note, John provided invaluable counsel during my early days as commissioner and was always generous with his time,” Bettman said. “On behalf of the NHL’s Board of Governors, we extend our deepest sympathies to his entire family and many friends.”

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