William "Bill" Jennings provided many years of service to hockey in New York City. He was also very active when the NHL entered its dramatic period of expansion. Jennings hockey interests were eclectic ranging from youth programs to the big business side of the profession.
Born in New York City, Jennings attended Princeton as an undergraduate before graduating from Yale Law School in 1943. After graduating he joined the prestigious Manhattan firm of Simpson, Thatcher and Bartlett. His relationship with hockey began in 1959 when he was the legal counsel for the Graham-Paige Corporation when it acquired controlling interest in Madison Square Garden Corporation, the parent company of the New York Rangers.
Jennings took an active role in the direction of the Rangers from the outset, becoming its president and representative on the NHL board of Governors in 1962. Jennings also sat on the NHL Finance Committee, and was the chairman of the Board of Governors and Expansion Committee. He also helped establish a New York office for the National Hockey League in 1964.
In 1966 he was the founder of the Lester Patrick award and dinner for those people who contributed outstanding service to hockey in the United States. That same year he was an integral part of the establishment of the Metropolitan Junior Hockey Association in New York.
Jennings was named The Hockey News executive-of-the-year in 1970 and the recipient of the Lester Patrick award in 1977. He was elected to the US Hockey Hall of Fame in 1981, the same year the NHL instituted the William M. Jennings Trophy to be presented to the goalie(s) having the lowest goals against average in the league.
He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1975.