Among the many skills Bill Hay possessed in his hockey career, it was his
vision both on and off the ice that separated him from his contemporaries.
His peripheral view of hockey extended beyond a notable National Hockey
League career and into the administrative direction of the game at the
Through it all, the benefit to Canadian hockey is immeasurable, profound
From Major Junior and college to the NHL to providing direction and
leadership in several different executive roles that enhanced the game, his
résumé is rivaled by few.
It is this unique and distinguished history that earned him the honour of
being named to the Order of Hockey in Canada along with Angela James and
Kevin Lowe as the Class of 2021.
“He’s quite a guy,” says former Hockey Canada president and 2017 Order of
Hockey in Canada honouree Murray Costello. “In my view, the [Order] was
conceived for people like Bill Hay.”
Born in Saskatoon but raised in Regina, Hay has literally spent a lifetime
in the game.
His playing career included two seasons with his hometown Regina Pats to a
three-year stint in the NCAA with Colorado College, where he won a national
championship in 1957.
His path to the Tigers pursuant to furthering his education and hockey
career is fascinating, as he hitchhiked from Regina to Colorado Springs and
walked on to the school’s hockey team, arriving with some clothes, little
money and his equipment.
The 85-year-old looks back and describes that period of his life as “young
But it obviously served him well for the future. Aside from all-star and
All-American accolades during his last two seasons and a national title, he
graduated with a bachelor’s degree in geology and returned to Canada to
start his professional career with the Calgary Stampeders of the Western
Hockey League – a senior professional league – in 1958-59.
At the time his NHL rights were controlled by the Montreal Canadiens, but
were sold to the Chicago Blackhawks for $25,000. Hay won the Calder
Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year in 1959-60, the first of eight
stellar NHL seasons.
His time in Chicago also came with a Stanley Cup championship in 1960-61,
when he played on a line with Murray Balfour and Bobby Hull and fostered
relationships with other teammates like Glenn Hall and Ab McDonald, along
with creating a friendship with Gordie Howe.
And while most in Canada would presume the thrill of winning the Stanley
Cup to be the prominent moment in a hockey career, that isn’t the case for
“Those awards are nice, but the highlight of my career was being the first
NCAA college graduate to play in the NHL.
“And by being that, I think I establish a process that scouts would be
looking at that league (for talent). I sort of set the precedent and others
After retiring in 1967 after amassing 113 goals and 386 points in 506
games, Hay returned to Calgary and began a 25-year career in the oil and
gas industry, running oil rigs around the world for Bow Valley Industries.
It was at this point the other side of his hockey career started as an
administrator, a direction he wasn’t unfamiliar with – his father, Charles,
was the first president of Hockey Canada in 1969 and notably helped
negotiate the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the Soviet Union.
While working for Daryl “Doc” Seaman at Bow Valley – one of the largest
companies of its type in Canada at the time – Hay helped broker a meeting
between Seaman and then NHL president John Ziegler to start the process of
relocating the struggling Atlanta Flames to Calgary.
Seaman, along with others like Harley Hotchkiss, became part of a group of
owners that financially facilitated the team’s move to Alberta in 1980. Hay
later served as the team’s president and CEO from 1991 to 1995.
It was at the same time Hay became a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame
selection committee, a duty he performed from 1980 to 1997. In fact, both
he and his father are enshrined members of the esteemed Hall, a rare
combination of father and son inductees.
Over the years Hay also contributed to the administrative side of the game
as Hockey Canada president and chairman of the Hockey Hall of Fame board of
directors, along with various other philanthropic initiatives to advance
and improve the game in Canada.
“In comparison to most everyone else that I’ve dealt with over the years,
he really has a feel for and a desire to make the game better in Canada for
young players,” says Costello.
“He wanted to find a way to make our development system better. That was
always top of mind in whatever Bill was working on.”
And despite what would appear to have been a busy and perhaps overwhelming
period of volunteerism, Hay says it was more rewarding than laborious,
especially with the support he received from his wife, Nancy, his three
children and their families over the years.
“You really just go ahead and find time for it,” he says. “I learned a lot
about hockey and the people that ran it. And one of the great things about
hockey is how many great people there are in it.”
Through his work in the game, there is likely one other defining moment to
Hay’s career and healthy list of contributions.
According to Costello, his influence and involvement in facilitating the
merger in 1998 between the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association and Hockey
Canada was instrumental in progressing the game. This aided hockey’s
national development from the grassroots level to elite entities like the
Program of Excellence.
“The merger would have never happened without Bill Hay,” says Costello. “He
was an exemplary leader and was remarkable everywhere he went … and he
always wanted to do something to make a difference in the game.”
Costello adds what Hay contributed over the decades to Canadian hockey is
extraordinary and inimitable – an uncommon melding of two reputable careers
in the game.
“Most people that make a contribution to our game do it either by leading
by example by the way they played the game or they came back as a volunteer
in the form of administrative leaders to improve programs along the way.
Bill provided both.”
Looking back on his career, Hay says he’s “enjoyed every minute” and is
gratified to know he made a difference in the development of the game
throughout Canada, especially in educating and helping the development of
“I’m very humbled by it,” he says of the Order recognition. “This honour is
as good an honour as I’ve received because it recognizes what I’ve done.”
To date, Hay is still involved with Hockey Canada, providing mentorship to
many on the executive and prominently supporting of the Bill Hay Future
Leaders internship program – an initiative he started only a few years ago.