Brian O'Neill devoted much of his life to improving the standard of play in the National Hockey League. While working on a number of committees and organized events he always exhibited professionalism and class. O'Neill was respected for his ability to attain results for the league without alienating people.
Born in Montreal, O'Neill played minor hockey up to the junior B level in his hometown. He graduated with a B.A. from Loyola College before earning a Bachelor of Commerce in Economics from McGill University. He was a solid right-winger on the varsity teams at both institutions. After graduation, O'Neill spent nine years with the Wallace Publishing Company of Montreal. He was responsible for the complete operation and publication of eight business periodicals.
On April 1, 1966, O'Neill was hired as the NHL's Director of Administration under president Clarence Campbell. He helped oversee the 1967 expansion draft and prepare the enlarged regular season schedule. In 1971 he was appointed an executive director of the league and began to look after the NHL Amateur/Entry Draft.
After Clarence Campbell retired in 1977, O'Neill was named the NHL's Executive Vice-president and took over all player disciplinary cases. He administered the NHL Montreal office and supervised league security. On the international front, he represented the league in any dealings with European countries. This became a exceedingly more complex task with the influx of players to the NHL from Europe. O'Neill also presided over the league's Supplementary, Waiver and Expansion Drafts and was a member of several NHL Committees including the General Managers, Rules, Professional and Officiating. He recorded the minutes at the NHL Board of Governors meetings, was the league supervisor of the Stanley Cup playoffs and sat on the Hockey Hall of Fame Board of Governors.
On September 30, 1992, O'Neill stepped down as NHL Executive Vice-president to serve as a consultant. His new role included administering the NHL Emergency Assistance Fund and working towards the standardization of equipment for the league. O'Neill continued to be a Trustee of the Stanley Cup, an honoured given to him in 1988. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1994.