The National Hockey League confirmed the death of its fourth president, John Ziegler, Friday morning.
He was 84 and the NHL says he passed away Thursday.
Ziegler ruled the NHL from 1977 to 1992, expanding the league from 18 teams to 24 in that time.
With the World Hockey Association folding in 1979, Ziegler struck a deal to move Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers, the Winnipeg Jets, Quebec Nordiques and the Hartford Whalers to the NHL.
In a statement following news of Ziegler’s death, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Ziegler “was instrumental in the NHL’s transition to becoming a more international League – during his tenure, the share of European-born players in the NHL grew from two to 11 percent, players from the former Soviet Union first entered the League and games between NHL and European Clubs became a nearly annual tradition.”
Ziegler’s tenure ended in 1992 when NHL owners forced him out of office dissatisfied with his handling of a 10-day strike over player pensions.
Gil Stein took over as interim president after Ziegler’s departure.
The position of NHL president effectively ended with Ziegler, as Bettman became the NHL’s first commissioner on Feb. 1, 1993.
Ziegler was born on Feb. 9, 1934, in Grosse Pointe, Michigan and played amateur hockey from 1949-69.
The NHL said in a release “it was his work in legal circles that brought him to the NHL, having graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in 1957.”
Ziegler was recognized for his service to the game in 1984 with the awarding of the Lester Patrick Trophy and his induction to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1987.