Ronald James Butlin
Born: August 8, 1925 (Calgary, Alberta)
Died: September 24, 2014 (Victoria, British Columbia)
Ron Butlin was a longtime sports administrator and team owner who served as president of the Western Hockey League when it was a minor professional circuit.
Butlin served as chairman of amateur winter and summer games in both British Columbia and Alberta.
He was president of a foundation organizing the Washington State Centennial Games in 1989. The Winter Games were split between Wenatchee, Leavenworth and Chelan, while the Summer Games were held in Spokane. Butlin resigned his post midway through 1989 after organizers had to pare summer events to make up for a shortfall in anticipated funding.
The Calgary native earned a personal fortune in the liquidation business, which allowed him to focus on his passion, which was organizing amateur sports for youth.
In the late 1950s, he appeared on radio broadcasts of WHL games, later serving as league president.
In 1965, he formed the Calgary Spurs, a cornerstone franchise in the new Western Canada Hockey League, a senior circuit. The Spurs won the Patton Cup as senior champions of Western Canada in 1966-67.
In 1968, Butlin became president of the Canadian Hockey Association, an outlaw rival to the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association. The CHA was an umbrella organization for the a new junior league, also named Western Canada Hockey League.
After moving to Victoria, Butlin became a well-known local figure for organizing the annual Victoria Day and Santa Clause parades.
In 1972, as WHL president, Butlin travelled to Moscow for the final four games of the Summit Series. At the Luzhniki Ice Palace, he remembers the Russian crowd going silent whenever Leonid Brezhnev moved to or from his seat. The fans were so cowed and afraid of running afoul of the authorities, Butlin could hear the scratch of skates on the ice.
His strongest impression from the first moment of arrival was of the oppression people faced.
“We were looking for normal customs people,” he told me three years ago. “All we could see were soldiers were rifles. It was a dictatorship in those days.”