Brian O’Neill (BCom’51), former NHL Executive Vice-President and McGill Hockey alum dies at 94

Published: 24 July 2023

Brian O'Neill (BCom’51), a cornerstone of the National Hockey League since joining its executive offices in 1966, died Friday morning at his care home in Montreal, the league announced Friday. He was 94.

Born and raised in Montreal, O’Neill earned a Bachelor of Arts from Loyola College before coming to McGill, where he obtained a Bachelor of Commerce in Economics while playing hockey for the McGill Redbirds.

After graduating from McGill, he spent a decade in the magazine publishing industry, overseeing the operation and publishing of eight business periodicals. He managed Wallace Publishing Company in Montreal and in 1962, was appointed business manager of the Financial Times of Canada, a Montreal-based weekly.

In 1966, he went on to join the NHL as director of administration with a mandate to oversee the league’s 1967 expansion from six to twelve teams and manage the schedule. From 1971 to 1977, he served as executive director, helping to organize the NHL Amateur Draft. In 1977, he was appointed executive vice-president and oversaw league discipline. He stepped down in 1992 but remained associated with the NHL as a consultant, administering operations of the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund, looking after European agreements and the NHL alumni association.

Elected into the NHL’s Hall of Fame in 1994, O’Neill served as a trustee of the Stanley Cup until his death. He was the second McGill grad to do so, after Philip D. Ross, who served in that role from 1893 to 1949.

From the time of his graduation from McGill, O’Neill remained a loyal supporter of the University, including the McGill hockey team. As a member of the Friends of McGill Hockey, an alumni support group, he maintained ties to his former team, occasionally attending the annual FMH Awards Gala.

He is survived by his wife Jean, his children Sean, Darcy, Nancy, Patrick and Sandy, and 11 grandchildren. A memorial service is planned for St. Patrick's Basilica in Montreal on Sept. 2.

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