William Hewitt contributed immensely to the evolution of hockey in Canada as both an administrator and innovator. His life long work with the Canadian Hockey Association and Ontario Hockey Association ranked him as one of the most important figures involved with the sport in the twentieth century.
Born in Cobourg, Ontario, Hewitt moved with his family an hour east to Toronto when he was a boy. While still in school he landed a job as a copy boy with the Toronto Evening News and later became a reporter. Hewitt soon functioned as the sports editor of that paper before moving on to the Montreal Herald and the Toronto Star.
Hewitt's true passion rested with hockey. In 1903 he got involved with the Ontario Hockey Association (OHA) as that body's secretary, a position he retained for more than sixty years. Nine years later he and associate Claude Robinson organized the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA). Hewitt served as CAHA Secretary-Treasurer for the period 1915-19, Registrar in 1922-23 and Registrar-Treasurer from 1924 to 1961.
Throughout this period Hewitt remained the sports editor at the Toronto Star while expanding his involvement with hockey, horse racing and rugby. In 1907 he was instrumental in the establishment of the Big Four football league. He also played a vital role in the formation of the Interprovincial Rugby Football Union, acted as president of the Canadian Rugby Union in 1918-19 and was a steward of the Canadian Incorporated Racing Association.
Hewitt was also active in international hockey. His Olympic tenure was impressive as he managed the gold-medal winning Winnipeg Falcons (1920), Toronto Granites (1924), and Toronto Varsity Grads (1928). At the 1920 Games in Antwerp, Belgium, Hewitt also served as a referee in a match between the host country and Sweden. In 1931 Hewitt was a major influence on Conn Smythe's final decision to build Maple Leaf Gardens at the intersection of Church and Carlton streets as opposed to Yonge Street. Soon thereafter he left the newspaper business to accept the post as Manager of Attractions at the new arena. Hewitt was a fixture at the Gardens in subsequent years and never missed a professional or amateur hockey game.
He kept soldiering on despite losing his wife and suffering severe injuries in an automobile accident in Pennsylvania in 1952. Later, his health failed but he insisted on travelling overseas to watch Canada's national team, such was his passion for the game.
Throughout Hewitt's career in hockey he was afforded many accolades and noteworthy honours. He was named a lifetime member of the OHA of December 5, 1925 and later received the same distinction from the CAHA and the Amateur Hockey Association of the United States. He also served as a Trustee of the Memorial Cup, Canada's annual junior hockey championship, the Allan Cup, emblematic of senior hockey supremacy in North America. Hewitt first presented the O.H.A. Gold Stick Award in 1947 as a vehicle for recognizing excellence among future hockey stars. In 1953 more than five hundred sports personalities from across North America took part in the W.A. Hewitt Testimonial Dinner.
Hewitt was also credited with helping to introduce nets to hockey goalposts in order to alleviate the high number of disputed goals or non-goals. In 1921 he brought his son Foster to Detroit to listen to a new innovation known as a radio. This planted the seed for one of the most legendary broadcasting careers in all of sport. He was elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1947.