John A. Ziegler Jr., who as president of the National Hockey League from 1977 to 1992 oversaw a major expansion and a merger with the World Hockey Association, died on Thursday. He was 84.
The league announced his death but did not say where he died or specify the cause.
A lawyer, Mr. Ziegler was the Red Wingsâ vice president and general counsel from 1970 to 1977 and was elected chairman of the National Hockey Leagueâs board of governors in 1976. A year later he became the fourth president in the leagueâs history, replacing Clarence Campbell, who had held the position since 1946.
Shortly after a 10-day player strike was settled in 1992, league owners, unhappy with the labor agreement, let Mr. Ziegler go. Gil Stein became interim president, and in 1993 Gary Bettman was named the leagueâs first commissioner, a position he still holds. The post of president has never been filled.
Mr. Bettman praised Mr. Ziegler in a statement for overseeing the leagueâs growth from 18 to 24 teams (it now has 31) and said he had been âinstrumental in the N.H.L.âs transition to becoming a more international League.â
Mr. Bettman noted that âduring his tenure, the share of European-born players in the N.H.L. grew from 2 to 11 percent, players from the former Soviet Union first entered the league, and games between N.H.L. and European clubs became a nearly annual tradition.â
In 1979 Mr. Ziegler helped broker the deal that brought the Edmonton Oilers, Quebec Nordiques, Winnipeg Jets and Hartford Whalers from the rival World Hockey Association to the N.H.L., bringing an end to that upstart leagueâs short life.
Led by Wayne Gretzky, the Oilers went on to become an N.H.L. powerhouse, winning the Stanley Cup with Gretzky four times from the 1983-84 to the 1987-88 seasons and once more after Gretzky left, in 1989-90.
After leaving the N.H.L., Mr. Ziegler worked at a Detroit law firm and held the position of alternate governor for the Chicago Blackhawks.
He received the Lester Patrick Trophy for service to hockey in the United States in 1984 and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1987.
John Augustus Ziegler Jr. was born on Feb. 9, 1934, in Grosse Pointe, Mich. He was an amateur hockey player for two decades, beginning when he was 15. He graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in 1957 and later did legal work for the Red Wings.