Nicknamed "Mr. OHA," Bill Hanley worked for nearly three decades in all phases of amateur hockey development in Ontario. He believed sound instruction at the grass roots level was a moral and financial duty of the Ontario Hockey Association. Hanley earned a reputation for being a fair arbiter who treated made time for all points of view.
Although his family was Canadian, Hanley was born when his mother was visiting Northern Ireland in 1915. He returned to Canada when he was only a few weeks old and grew up in Toronto. Hanley moved to Dublin, Ontario in his youth when his father purchased a creamery business. He was sent to the Ontario Agricultural College to learn about dairy production and become more involved in operating the family business. Hanley remained involved with the farm for ten years until it was sold and his family returned to Toronto to run a butcher shop.
Hanley joined the Royal Canadian Navy and served during World War II. After the war he returned to pitch in with the family shop but also began to get himself plugged into the hockey network. After a chance meeting with Spencer "Spiff" Evans, Hanley's involvement with the game increased. He started as a timekeeper for junior Marlboro games at Maple Leaf Gardens and eventually assumed the same responsibilities at the NHL contests.
An effusive and optimistic worker, Hanley garnered the respect of many influential hockey people. He was offered the position of assistant to George Panter, business manager of the OHA. Although it represented less money than he used to make with his family, Hanley jumped at the chance work in hockey. He learned the ropes from some of the top administrators in amateur circles, including Panter, George Dudley, and W.A. Hewitt. He eventually took on the responsibilities as secretary-manager of the Ontario Hockey Association, a position he held until he retired in November, 1974.
During his tenure, Hanley participated in many changes to the game in the OHA. Major changes made under his guidance included moving from the two-referee to three-man system and the elimination of the offside pass. Hanley was a fine innovator who was known for welcoming other points of view when dealing with any hockey issue. He entered the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1986.