One of the most recognized and respected leaders in the sport of amateur and professional hockey, passed away on September 22, 2016. He was 86.
In the first period of his life, Bush was born in Minneapolis and played high school hockey at The Breck School before heading east to Dartmouth College. He played hockey and football as an undergrad and then returned home to attend the University of Minnesota Law School. Bush married his long time sweetheart, sailing partner, and member of the Ice Follies, the late Mary Relf Bush. They spent 50 years together and she was his greatest fan.
After working as a lawyer at Strong, Tully & Bush, he played amateur hockey in the Twin Cities and hung up his skates when he found that he excelled at the administrative side of the game. In 1959, he was named General Manager of the U.S. National Team and was elected a Director to the Amateur Hockey Association of the United States (AHAUS) – now, USA Hockey. Bush was integral in convincing the Soviet National Team to play in the U.S. for the first time that same year.
In the second period of Bush's life, after gaining experience in the minors as the Owner and President of the Minneapolis Bruins of the Central Hockey League (CHL), Bush focused on an NHL expansion franchise for his home state. He led local hockey enthusiasts and businessmen in making a successful bid against competitor cities to establish the Minnesota Northstars in 1967.
The third period of Bush's life focused on increasing participation and elevating amateur hockey in the U.S. He became the full-time, volunteer President of USA Hockey in June 1986, following his mentor, William Thayer Tutt. Bush served in that role for 17 years. In recognition of his 45th year of service to USA Hockey and commemorating his contributions to the greatest game on earth, the organization dedicated its national headquarters in Colorado Springs as The Walter L. Bush, Jr. Center in June of 1999.
Bush retired as a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Council in May 2008 after a 23-year stint, the last 14 years as a Vice President of the organization. He served on numerous committees within the IIHF, including Chair of the IIHF Women's Ice Hockey Committee, the IIHF Inline Hockey Committee and the Selection Committee for the IIHF Hall of Fame from its inception. As chairman of the IIHF Women's Ice Hockey Committee, Bush was instrumental in organizing the first IIHF Women's World Championship. He also led the initiative that made women's ice hockey a medal sport in the Olympic Winter Games in 1998 in Nagano, Japan.
Too many accolades to list, here are a few standouts:
In 1973, he received the NHL's Lester Patrick Award in recognition of his outstanding service to ice hockey in the U.S. He was enshrined in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 1980 and, in 1989, was elected to the Minnesota Sports Hall of Fame. An inductee into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto in 2000, Bush was later elected to the IIHF Hall of Fame in 2009. Bush received the Olympic Order from the International Olympic Committee in 2002, the highest honor of the Olympic movement awarded for distinguished contributions in the cause of sport.
When Walter's life went into overtime, he met the next love of his life, Kathleen "Sis" Bush. They were best friends and he loved to say: "With Sis' legs and my brains, we make a pretty good team." Sis' beauty, strength and strong will were a perfect match for him. Walter was a dedicated family man, a loyal friend to many, a savvy world traveler, an exceptional golfer, a mediocre captain of his boats, an avid sports fan and always the guy in the room you wanted to laugh with and stick by his side. He savored life and was tireless filling his days and nights with his cherished friends, enjoying golf and boating, and discovering new ways to bring people together to share in the fun. His intelligence, sense of humor, wisdom, sharp mind, advocacy and quiet way of helping those in need will never be forgotten. He will be missed by his thousands of friends all over the world and especially by his family whom he deeply loved.
Survivors include his wife Kathleen "Sis" Bush; sons Walter III and Steven Bush Minneapolis (Jasper and Madeline); daughter, Anne (David) Hanson, Englewood, CO (Lilly and Adelaide); nephew, Robert Bush, Minneapolis; and niece, Tori Bush Pajeski of Great Barrington, MA. Special thanks to caregivers Jennifer and Steve Benson and Camille Schultz as well as long-time friend, assistant and confidante, Mary Ann Wadsworth.
In lieu of flowers, memorials honoring Walter may be made to: USA Hockey Foundation, 1775 Bob Johnson Dr., Colorado Springs, CO 80906; and/or Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, 920 E. 28th St., Ste. 100, Mpls., MN 55407.
Memorial service will be held on Oct. 4th at 11:00a.m. at St. Patrick's Church, 6820 St. Patrick's Lane, Edina, MN.