Fans of the present day American Hockey League owe a debt of gratitude to Jack Butterfield. His passion, innovative talent, and fiscal know how solidified the league when faced with the twin threat of NHL expansion and the emergence of the World Hockey Association in the late 60s and early 70s. His efficiency and demeanour earned Butterfield a host of admirers, none more important than NHL president Clarence Campbell.
The native of Regina, Saskatchewan played amateur hockey until he suffered a broken back while serving with the RCAF in World War II, took him off the ice for good. Butterfield's first AHL job was as a public relations executive part time trainer for the New Haven Eagles, run by his famous uncle Eddie Shore. He continued his journey across North America as team business manager for the Fort Worth Rangers of the United States Hockey League and the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League. Butterfield returned to the AHL to serve as the rink manager, concessions manager, trainer, coach and general manager of the Springfield Indians. He joined the administration of the AHL in 1957 as an alternate governor and became its president nine years later.
As AHL president, Butterfield took on several arduous tasks that would have been avoided by many. Most significantly he was a major player in the restructuring of the Joint Affiliation Agreement with the NHL. This meant that AHL franchises would develop prospects and play a few veteran reserves for their corresponding parent clubs in the NHL. By brokering this arrangement Butterfield kept the AHL from succumbing to the loss of players to the expanded NHL and put it in a stronger position when the World Hockey Association began signing players in the early 1970s. His reputation was such that his opinion was often sought by the NHL Rules Committee.
Butterfield also revised the original AHL constitution and by-laws to reflect contemporary sports. He was often praised by successful and unsuccessful AHL franchise applicants for giving complete information regarding the cost of running a team. Butterfield was also a great help to existing teams when they experienced budgetary difficulties. He formulated the league schedule each year and, when confronted with teams folding during a season, was able to revise game dates very quickly. His community involvement included serving on the Board of Governors of the Shriner's Children's Hospital of Springfield and being elected vice-chairman of the Springfield March of Dimes.
He was elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1980.