Walter L. Bush Jr. played a vital role in the growth and development of amateur and professional hockey in the United States. Although his influence was felt throughout the country, it was strongest in his native Minnesota. Bush was instrumental in popularizing the game at the amateur and minor pro levels before playing a key role in the expansion of the NHL to Minneapolis-St. Paul.
Born in Minneapolis, Bush played high school and minor hockey as a boy before heading east to attend Dartmouth College. He played hockey and football as an undergraduate then returned home to attend the University of Minnesota law school.
By his late twenties, Bush stopped playing but became more active in the administrative side of the game. In 1959, he was named general manager of the U.S. national team and was elected a director to the Amateur Hockey Association of the United States (AHAUS). Bush was an important influence when the Soviet national team was convinced to make an appearance in the United States for the first time that same year.
During the mid-1950s Bush expanded his activities into professional hockey. He was part of the group that formed the Central Hockey League (CHL) in 1955 and served as the president of the circuit for three seasons. At one time Bush owned, managed and coached the Minneapolis Bruins of the CHL.
After gaining experience in the minors, Bush concentrated his energy on obtaining an NHL franchise for his home state. He made one of seventeen bids for expansion and was ultimately successful because he guaranteed that the brand new Metropolitan Sports Arena would be ready for the start of the 1967-68 season. The Minnesota North Stars extended the powerful Montreal Canadiens to six games in the Stanley Cup semi-finals in 1971 and later reached the finals for the first time in 1981. Along the way Bush oversaw the merge between the North Stars and the defunct Cleveland Barons in 1978.
In 1986 Bush was named president of AHAUS. His vast expertise was sought as the American hockey officials tried to unite the amateur and professional factions in the country. That same year Bush was elected to the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Council. He was later named IIHF vice-president and took on a role with the United States Olympic Committee.
Bush became a director of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in Eveleth, Minnesota and, in 1972, was the first US-born official named to the Board of Directors of the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. Continually looking to broaden his horizons, Bush also became chairman of the IIHF Women's in-line hockey tournament and its subsequent Hall of Fame.
Bush's outstanding service to hockey in the United States was celebrated in 1973 when he was presented the Lester Patrick trophy. In addition to the Hockey Hall of Fame he was elected to the United States Hockey Hall of Fame, the Minnesota Sports Hall of Fame and the Breck Military Academy Hall of Fame. In 1999, USA Hockey (formerly AHAUS) named a building in Bush's honour to commemorate his four decades of service to the game.
Bush was elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2000.