A versatile athlete and executive, Brigadier General John Reed Kilpatrick was one of the key figures behind the popularization of ice hockey in New York City. His tireless work with the New York Rangers and the National Hockey League as a whole helped solidify the league from the 1930's through the Original Six era (1942-67).
Born and bred in the Big Apple, Kilpatrick was a classic all-American athlete while attending Yale. He was one of the top football players and track and field figures at the school in the early part of the twentieth century. During a game in 1907 versus Princeton, Kilpatrick was credited with the first overhand forward pass in the college record books.
After graduating from Yale, Kilpatrick worked for a New York City contracting firm before he was called into federal military service which eventually led him into the heart of World War I in France. After the War Kilpatrick was presented with a host of honours including the Distinguished Service Medal. When he returned to New York City, he embarked on a successful business career, first as vice-president of the International Coal Products Corporation from 1919 to 1923, then as VP of the Fuller contracting company for the period 1923-33. At this point, he resigned to take over as president of the Madison Square Garden Corporation.
During nearly a quarter of a century at the helm of the top indoor sports arena in the United States, Kilpatrick oversaw the introduction of the New York Rangers to the National Hockey League. The club won the Stanley Cup in 1933 and 1940 under his tenure. Additionally, professional ice shows, boxing as well as college and professional basketball were introduced to great success. In 1936, the respected executive was elected as an NHL Governor.
When the United States entered World War II, Kilpatrick was recalled to active duty and was promoted to Brigadier General in June, 1942. After retiring from the Army in 1949 he returned to his duties at Madison Square Garden and eventually served as Chairman of the Board from 1955 to 1959. Kilpatrick also put a lot of effort into the NHL Players Pension Society which was created in 1947. In addition to his election as a builder in the Hockey Hall of Fame, Kilpatrick was enshrined as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1960.