November 07, 2015

2015 HHOF Inductee: Bill "Red" Hay

Bill Hay came from an athletic family. His father, Charlie Hay, was an outstanding goalie for the Regina senior team in the early 1920's. In 1923 he lost out in the Allan Cup finals to the famous and very strong Toronto Granites team. His mother, the former Florence "String" Miller was one of Canada's great track and field stars. His uncle, Earl Miller played in the NHL in the late 1920's, early 30's.

Bill played his first hockey around Regina, Saskatchewan. and had a solid junior career with the Regina Pats (WCJHL). In two seasons he scored 78 points (30goals, 48 assists) in 62 games. He also played a couple of games for the University of Saskatchewan in 1953-54, but dropped out.

Bill's life and hockey career were at a crossroads at this point. The Montreal Canadiens owned his NHL rights, and expected him to report to training camp. But Bill had other ideas, and literally hitch-hiked his way down to Colorado Springs where he literally convinced Colorado College to give both him and good friend Bob McCusker athletic scholarships. Through CC he would complete his degree in geology.

He had two splendid seasons with Colorado College Tigers (116 points) and led the entire league in points in 1957-58. He was selected to the first WCHA All-Star team in both seasons (1957 & 58). Bill also was named to the NCAA West first All-American team both years. He helped lead the Tigers to the 1957 national championships.

Bill originally did not intend to pursue a NHL career, and rather use his geology degree and join his father in the oil industry. But, despite it being almost unheard of to have a college player make it to the NHL, Bill decided to give pro hockey a shot.

He attended Montreal Canadiens training camp in 1958-59. The vaunted Habs were so overstocked with talent that he of course did not make the team, so they loaned him to the Calgary Stampeders of the WHL, which at that time was Chicago Blackhawks farm team. Bill impressed everyone and scored a fine 24 goals and 54 points in 53 games. In April 1959 Chicago bought him from Montreal who reluctantly sold him for $ 25,000.

Bill was an immediate hit in the NHL as he scored 18 goals and 37 assists for 55 points in 70 games as a rookie, good for 13th place overall in the league. His fine season earned him the Calder Trophy as the rookie of the year, the first collegiate player to do so.

His linemates during that season were Murray Balfour on the right side and a young superstar in Bobby Hull on the left. They were quickly dubbed "The Million Dollar Line"

The rangy redhead was one of the slickest stickhandlers and playmakers in the NHL. He often "quarterbacked" the Hawks power play and provided fine leadership to the team overall. In only his second season with the team he became the assistant captain. As a sophomore he scored 59 points in 69 games and helped Chicago win the Stanley Cup.

Teammate Stan Mikita raved about Hay's leadership abilities being such a key to the '61 championship.

The trick in making us a winner was getting the team working. This is where a leader comes in and Billy Hay was just such a leader."

His best season offensively came in 1961-62 when he had 63 points in only 60 games. Bill continued to be a steady player, scoring a career high 23 goals in 1963-64 (56 points). In 1965-66 he had 20 goals and 51 points in 68 games.

Although Bill loved hockey he decided to retire at the end of the 1965-66 season to pursue a business career. However his retirement was shot as he returned to the Hawks mid-way through the 1966-67 season and picked up 20 points in only 36 games.

Chicago left him unprotected in the expansion draft that summer and he was claimed by St.Louis. But this time Bill decided to hang em' up for good, only 31 years old.

Bill obviously did well in the business aspect of his life, finally jumping into the family business of oil. At one point he had enough money to be a part owner and team president of the Calgary Flames. 

He would later add the presidency duties of the Hockey Hall of Fame to his resume. Hay was appointed as chairman and CEO in July 1998. He previously spent 17 years on the selection committee andserved 18 years on the board of directors, including 15 years as chairman. 

Under his leadership, the Hall has strengthened relations with the IIHF, NHL, NHLPA and Hockey Canada, and has invested over $30 million in capital assets including two major expansion projects. 

"I have countless fond memories of my association with the Hockey Hall of Fame over the past 33 years," said Hay. "It's been an incredible honour and privilege to serve this iconic institution and to interact with the people that make it so special.

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