Landon recalls Butterfield

Jack Butterfield
By Chris Maza

Reminder Assistant Editor

SPRINGFIELD -- Springfield Falcons president and general manager Bruce Landon vividly remembers the first time he ever met hockey legend Jack Butterfield.

Landon was a young player for the Springfield Kings and Butterfield was the president of the American Hockey League (AHL) when, at a game at the Coliseum at the Eastern States Exposition, a major brawl broke out between the Kings and the Rochester Americans that got so bad, West Springfield police were forced to intervene. Landon was arrested and shortly after, he was called into Butterfield's office.

"He fined me $500 and I was almost in tears because it was 1970. I was a 20- or 21-year-old kid and I said, 'Jack, please, I only make $8,000 a year,'" Landon said. "He said, 'Alright, make it $100 and never do anything like this again.'"

Butterfield, the nephew of late Boston Bruins great and Springfield Indians owner Eddie Shore, worked his way through the ranks, eventually gaining the title of general manager of the Springfield Indians and later became president of the AHL. He passed away on Oct. 16 at the age of 91.

Butterfield was one of the most influential figures in the AHL, both as a team executive and as president. With the Indians, Butterfield was the architect of Indians teams that won three consecutive Calder Cup championships in 1960, 1961 and 1962. No other AHL general manager has ever done that.

"It's very difficult in any sport at any level in any era. Back then, there weren't as many teams, but to be the general manager of a team that wins a Calder Cup, then back to back, then back to back to back, you're obviously doing something right," Landon, whose teams won back-to-back Calder Cups in 1989 and 1990, said. "Jack had those abilities. He was a hockey guy. They put together some good teams back then and it's quite an accomplishment."

As president, a position he held for 28 years, he was responsible for strengthening the AHL's affiliation with the National Hockey League (NHL), making the AHL the primary developmental league for professional hockey players. The move, among other things, kept the league viable in the wake of the NHL's expansion from six teams to 12 in 1967, which threatened the AHL's ability to remain in existence.

"He was just a remarkable man who just did everything," Landon said. "He guided the league through some very rough times that people don't realize."

After his tenure as president ended, Butterfield, a native of Western Canada, stayed in Springfield and remained active in the community as the chairman of the AHL Board of Governors, as well as being vice-chair of the Springfield March of Dimes and a member of the Board of Springfield Shriner's Hospital.

Landon, also Canadian-born, understands Butterfield's attraction to the area.

"You see that in this area a lot," Landon said. "I came to this area from Kingsford, Ontario in 1969, settled down in this area and raised a family here and there have been a lot of players who played for the Indians who have settled into the area. If you're a hockey man, you're in a good hotbed of hockey."

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