William Mitchell (Bill) Northey dedicated himself to hockey in the Montreal area for over half a century. He served on a host of administrative bodies, helped construct two arenas and was a driving force behind the establishment of the Allan Cup and the International Hockey Hall of Fame. Northey also played a vital role in a number of other sports throughout his life.
Born in Leeds Village, Quebec, Northey moved with his family to Lennoxville when he was eight. During this period he played several sports including hockey and laid the groundwork for his lifelong dedication to amateur sports. In 1893 he moved to Montreal and quickly became associated with the Montreal Lacrosse Club and the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association. He soon became an honourary secretary of the Lacrosse Club and attained the status of senior member of the Montreal AAA with a lifetime membership to follow in 1906.
During the winter of 1897-98, Northey and Montreal AAA President Ed Sheppard built the Westmount Arena. Northey was appointed the secretary-treasurer of the new facility which represented the world's first rink designed specifically for hockey.
Northey was an integral part of the formation of the Eastern Canada Amateur Hockey Association in 1906 and served as the league's secretary-treasurer. In 1908 this circuit disbanded when three of its member clubs turned professional. Sensing that amateur hockey needed a positive reinforcement, Northey convinced his associate Sir Montagu Allan to donate a trophy for which the best senior amateur clubs in Canada would compete. As a result of Northey's efforts, a new tradition of amateur hockey competition was born at a crucial time. In 1913 Northey succeeded Sir Edward Clouston as Trustee of the Allan Cup.
Northey played a key role in the establishment of the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association in 1914. He acted as the chair of the first ever meeting of the new organization. In 1920 Northey was elected as a director of the Montreal Athletic Association and moved forward as vice-president in 1922 and president in 1924.
The Montreal Forum was constructed in 1924 under the supervision of the Canadian Arena Company. Northey was the founder of this body and initially functioned as the vice-president and managing director of the Forum before filling the position of President.
A gifted innovator, Northey was the chief influence behind two significant rule changes shortly after the turn of the century. Firstly, he convinced the owners of the ECAHA clubs to adopt three periods in place of two halves. In 1911 he saw to the introduction of six-man hockey as opposed to the original configuration that was based on seven skaters.
Northey was a vital component of a number of other sporting enterprises in Montreal. In 1900 he served as the co-founder and secretary-treasurer of the Montreal Horse Show Association. Six years later he performed the same function with the Montreal Jockey Club. He was a member of the Canadian Olympic Committee and served on the advisory board of the Canadian Olympic Association. Additionally, he was an honourary president of the Canadian Amateur Skating Association and Canadian Wheelmen's Association and the honourary vice-president of the Amateur Athletic Union of Canada and the Commonwealth Games Association of Canada. Northey was also a driving force behind the construction of the Montreal Children's hospital.
When the International Hockey Hall of Fame was organized in 1944, Northey was appointed an honourary president. The following year he was admitted to the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder. In 1948 he was elected as the first life member of the Amateur Athletic Union of Canada.
He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1947.