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Modern players in the AHL owe their jobs to the work of Jack Butterfield, says the league's current president. ((Canadian Press file) )

Former American Hockey League president and Hockey Hall of Fame member Jack A. Butterfield died Saturday.

He was 91.

The Regina, Saskatchewan native was president of the AHL for 28 years and is widely credited with keeping the league alive during NHL expansion and the formation of the World Hockey Association in the 1970s.

"The American Hockey League would not exist today were it not for the efforts of Jack Butterfield during his tenure as president," current AHL president and CEO David Andrews said in a statement. "He is a hockey legend and his contributions will forever be honoured by the AHL."

Andrews took over from Butterfield after he stepped down in 1994.

Butterfield was given his start in the AHL by his uncle, the legendary Eddie Shore. After serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force during Second World War, Butterfield worked for Shore's New Haven Eagles as a public relations executive and trainer.

Following stints in the USHL and WHL, Butterfield returned to the AHL with the Springfield Indians, later serving as both coach and general manager.

He remains the only GM in league history to oversee three consecutive Calder Cup championships (1960, 1961, 1962).

Butterfield was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder in 1980 and received the NHL's Lester Patrick Award in 1985 for outstanding service to hockey in the United States.

The AHL's Calder Cup Playoffs MVP award is also named in his honour.

Butterfield was inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame in 2006 as a member of its inaugural class.