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Seller Story

Walter Bush, Minneapolis, MN


For more than 50 years, Walter L. Bush Jr. was the heart and soul of American hockey. After playing at Dartmouth University, the Minneapolis-native returned home and earned his law degree at the University of Minnesota. While playing in an amateur league, his legal expertise was called on to negotiate a matter with USA hockey, and so began his long tenure working to develop the sport at every level — from the ice to the back office. “More than anything, my dad was one of the world’s most devoted volunteers,” recalls his son Steve. “He got into amateur hockey in a big way around 1957, after the Olympics. He attended every winter Olympics until 2014 to represent his country and the sport he loved so much.”

Bush went on to manage the 1959 national and the 1964 Olympic teams, and became the president of USA Hockey from 1986 to 2003. As president, Bush advocated for the addition of women’s hockey as an Olympic sport for many years before it became a reality at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, where the US beat the Canadians for their first gold medal. Bush was behind the hiring of Herb Brooks, the coach of legendary 1980 men’s team that beat the favored Soviets at the height of the Cold War before the US went on to beat Finland in the gold medal game. Bush is portrayed in Miracle, the 2004 feature film about the team. “There’s a letter in the sale that’s signed from Herb, which is a big deal because it’s from 1980,” notes Steve.

Bush met his first wife, Steve’s late mother, Mary Relf, sailing in Lake Calhoun as a teen. She went on to travel the country skating with the ice follies, and her likeness is captured in a black and white photo in the collection. Steve recalls that much of the crystal in the sale came from his parents’ trip to Czechoslovakia while his father was managing the 1959 national team. The achievement that brought him the most pride, however? “Bringing the North Stars to Minneapolis,” Steve recalls. His family watched with pride as their father received well-deserved inductions into the US Hockey Hall of Fame (1980), the Hockey Hall of Fame (2000) and the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of fame (2009).

Seller Story: Walter Bush, Minneapolis, MN
Seller Story: Walter Bush, Minneapolis, MN
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Seller Story: Walter Bush, Minneapolis, MN

Did you ever go with your father to the Olympics?

I got to go to Nagano in 1998 and watch the women win the gold medal. My father was really the godfather of making women’s hockey an Olympic sport – it was initially just going to be an exhibition sport.

Where did he keep all of these pieces?

They were all on display. He had a big glass case that was lit up, as well as a trophy case. His most prized accolade was from B’nai B’rith, from the highest organization for Judaism, for outstanding achievement in the community, which he received when he founded the North Stars. He was one of the few non-Jewish people to receive the award.

Did he think it was crazy that he was portrayed in Miracle?

No, my dad didn’t think anything was crazy. He saw a lot of crazy in his life and he was never shocked!

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