Butterfield was the long-time president of the American Hockey League, serving the longest tenure of any AHL executive (28 years, from 1966 to 1994). Since his retirement as president, he has served as the AHL's Chairman of the Board and continues to oversee the creation of the annual regular season schedules for the league.
After being wounded in action while serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force in World War II, and before serving as a league official, Butterfield worked for his uncle Eddie Shore's Springfield Indians as a trainer. He subsequently held management positions in the Pacific Coast Hockey League and the United States Hockey League before returning to the Indians, serving as a rink manager and trainer before rising to become the team's general manager. He was the general manager when the Indians won three consecutive Calder Cup championships in 1960, 1961 and 1962, a feat as yet unmatched in the AHL.
Upon becoming AHL President in 1966, Butterfield was instrumental in establishing the AHL as the primary minor league for the National Hockey League through restructuring of the basic affiliation agreement with the NHL. This agreement would help the league survive when expansion and the World Hockey Association came into being, and Butterfield's acumen became respected enough so that his views were sought by the NHL Rules Committee.
Elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1980 in the Builders' category, Butterfield has also twice won the James C. Hendy Memorial Award as the AHL's outstanding executive (1971, 1984) and received the Lester Patrick Trophy in 1985 for service to hockey in the United States. He has been further honored by having the award for the most valuable player in the AHL playoffs named after him in 1984. Butterfield was also the first recipient of the Thomas Ebright Memorial Award in 1998 for outstanding contributions to the AHL.
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