Jim Gregory, former general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Photo courtesy Toronto Maple Leafs/NHL.com

Former Leafs general manager Jim Gregory dies at 83

An important part of the long, colourful history of the Toronto Maple Leafs has passed away.

Jim Gregory, who served as the team’s general manager from 1969 to 1979, died Wednesday in Toronto. He was 83.

The cause of death was not known, though Gregory had suffered a heart attack ten years ago and had since been treated for amyloidosis, a blood disorder.

Leafs president and alternate governor Brendan Shanahan praised Gregory as “one of the great gentlemen of hockey”.

“He was a friend to so many within the game, the Leafs, the league, the Hall of Fame and beyond,” said Shanahan in a statement appearing on the Leafs’ official Twitter account. “His friendships and contributions to hockey were so deeply rooted. He was a living, breathing piece of hockey history. He will be greatly missed.”

Gregory served as general manager during a time of great transition for the club. Working for ten years under mercurial owner Harold Ballard, Gregory oversaw a club that featured superstars like Darryl Sittler, Lanny MacDonald, Tiger Williams, Bjore Salming and Ian Turnbull. The Leafs made the playoffs eight times during that ten-year-span. Gregory became one of the first NHL managers to scout for talent in Europe, and was the first NHL general manager to establish a full-time scouting department, hiring five professional scouts.

After Ballard fired Gregory in 1979, he was named the NHL’s director of the Central Scouting Service, and was promoted in 1986 to the league’s director of hockey operations. Gregory was also a long-time selection committee chairman for the Hockey Hall of Fame, to which he himself was inducted as a builder in 2007.

Gregory was married with four children.