Hockey Hall of Famer and popular longtime NHL executive Jim Gregory, best known for being one of the first to start bringing European players to North America, has died at the age of 83.
The league said Gregory died Wednesday at his home in Toronto. A cause of death was not disclosed.
Gregory spent a decade as general manager of the Wholesale Toronto Maple Leafs Jerseys from the late 1960s until the late 1970s and was one of the first to import European players, most notably Swede Borje Salming. He spent almost 40 years with the NHL as director of central scouting, executive director of hockey operations and senior vice president of hockey operations and supervision.
USA Hockey announced Wednesday that it is increasing penalties for racial and derogatory slurs of any kind by way of a directive from the governing body’s president.
Anyone penalized under the rule that covers racial and derogatory slurs will now receive a match penalty, which comes with an automatic five-minute major and disqualification from the game. Additionally, offenders will be suspended until an investigation and hearing can be held by a governing USA Hockey affiliate or junior league. The governing affiliates and leagues will have 30 days to complete the investigation and hearing, and further discipline can be doled out at the discretion of those entities.
Previously, such incidents would come with an automatic game misconduct and additional one-game suspension, but member affiliates and leagues could issue further discipline at their discretion.
Jim Smith, president of USA Hockey, said in a press release that he made the decision to elevate the previous penalty as an increased deterrent.
“We continue to get reports of disturbing incidents of racial and other derogatory slurs, behavior which is reprehensible and has absolutely no place in our game, especially around our children,” he said. “For reasons I cannot explain or understand, the current penalty in place does not seem to be enough of a deterrent to stop this type of conduct.”
A USA Hockey spokesperson said that the move was not the result of a specific incident or increased reports of incidents. The spokesperson said that the organization does receive a number of reports of such incidents each year and this directive is aimed at getting those numbers “closer to zero.” A presidential directive as opposed to a board-reviewed rule change is rare, but has been used in the past, according to the spokesperson.
“The use of hateful language is a hurdle to creating a welcoming environment for families that want to be involved in our sport,” said USA Hockey executive director Pat Kelleher in a statement. “Eradicating this kind of behavior from our game is critical as we continue to make a positive impact on society through hockey.”
Wholesale Winnipeg Jets Jerseys general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said absent defenseman Dustin Byfuglien has had ankle surgery and the team was not “directly involved” in the decision.
The Jets also announced that forward Mark Letestu will be out at least six months because of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle.
Cheveldayoff declined to discuss the team’s relationship with Byfulgien other than to call it “complicated.” He did not say whether Byfuglien might return to the team this season. The 34-year-old player was suspended without pay after failing to report to training camp in September, and there was talk that he may retire. Byfuglien had been granted a leave by the team for personal reasons.
The team said that the long-term health of the 34-year-old Letestu is not in question. The myocarditis is usually the result of a viral infection.
Letestu signed a one-year, $700,000 contract with Winnipeg this summer and had appeared in seven games with no points.
Cheveldayoff spoke Thursday in San Jose, California, a day after it was reported Byfuglien had surgery for a high ankle sprain last week in his native Minnesota.
Cheveldayoff wouldn’t say whether there was a difference of opinion between the team and Byfuglien’s camp on what kind of procedure was required stemming from the injury late last season.
The Jets blue line was decimated in the offseason. Tyler Myers, Jacob Trouba and Ben Chiarot all left as free agents before Byfuglien didn’t show.
The Jets, who are trying to stay above water at 6-7, play the Wholesale San Jose Sharks Jerseys on Friday, but they will be without star winger Patrik Laine (lower-body injury).
“It is impossible to express the extent to which the National Hockey League family adored Jim Gregory and the loss we feel as a result of his passing,” Wholesale NHL Jerseys commissioner Gary Bettman said. “Jim Gregory wasn’t just a great ‘hockey man,’ though he certainly was that. He was a great man — a devoted husband to Rosalie, his wife of 60 years; father to Andrea, Valerie, Maureen and David; grandfather of 13; and mentor and friend to too many to number.”
Known around the sport as “Mr. Gregory,” he served as chairman of the Wholesale Hockey Jerseys Hall of Fame selection committee from 1998-2014 and was a fixture at the NHL draft and other league events. He’d hand out silver sticks to players for reaching 1,000 games played, present new Hall of Famers with their rings and call names on the second day of the draft.
“There’s no better man and no better ambassador that represented the NHL so honorably,” retired defenseman Aaron Ward said on Twitter. “He was everywhere, at every event, and he’d immediately make you smile just seeing him. That says enough about the man.”
Gregory was elected to the Hall of Fame as a builder in 2007. Beyond his years running the Maple Leafs, he was central to the NHL’s use of video to review goals and the expansion of the league’s Central Scouting system.