HISTORIC ST. MARYS: Linton Treacy aka Pete Muldoon

  • History   Wednesday, September 22, 2021   Mary Smith

By Mary Smith
With the NHL pre-season starting this weekend and the Lincolns already on the ice at our arena, it’s an appropriate time to take a look back at the first St. Marys boy to make a name for himself as a player and coach in the world of professional hockey. When he was born in June 1887, his parents, Alexander and Eliza Treacy, named him Linton. But to the sports world, he was better known by his nickname – Pete Muldoon.
The St. Marys Museum’s image collection does not include a photograph of Linton Treacy although a number of pictures can be found on the internet. They show a fit, good-looking man with wavy dark hair and a confident, cheerful expression. The photograph with this week’s column, an old postcard view, ca 1912, shows some places in St. Marys that were important to Linton when he was growing up. His father was a carpenter and contractor. In the centre of this picture is a white plume of steam rising from a sawmill along Trout Creek, just east of the Church Street Bridge. Alex Treacy, with several partner contractors, owned this business for a number of years. Linton would have been very familiar with it, perhaps even doing odd jobs there on Saturdays or after school.
When Linton was born, his father was building his reputation as a trusted contractor, responsible for the construction of a number of houses and bridges in the St. Marys area. His mother, Eliza Parent, was from Quebec and, according to the census, French was her first language. Linton had two older sisters, Ethel and Della, and an older brother, Everett. A younger brother, Melburn, died of appendicitis in 1900, age 10. The Treacy family lived in the south ward and when the children reached secondary school age, all would have walked over the bridges across Trout Creek, featured in this postcard, on their way to the St. Marys Collegiate on the north ward hill.
Linton Treacy was a natural athlete and during his life, he excelled at many different sports including baseball, lacrosse and boxing. But he learned to skate as a boy and hockey was his first love. The St. Marys arena was the long barn-like building on the left of the photograph. It had been built in 1884 as a curling facility and although it was also used for public skating, the curlers had priority. When Linton started high school and walked past this building, he knew that hockey was not allowed inside and he would expect to have to curtail his hockey playing to scrimmages on temporary rinks on the river.
But he was lucky. In November 1903, when Treacy was 16 years old, a group of hockey enthusiasts met at the town hall and learned that St. Marys could finally sponsor a hockey team. After years of negotiation, the curlers had finally agreed to rent them ice time at the Wellington Street arena for practices three evenings a week from 7 to 8:30. The new St. Marys Hockey Club agreed to enter two teams – junior and intermediate – in the Ontario Hockey Association. The team sweaters were to be green with white trimmings. The intermediate team began play on New Year’s Day, 1904, and did reasonably well in the short, three-month season, against teams from places such as Watford and Exeter. Old-timers remember that Linton Treacy was on the junior team, playing goalie. Unfortunately, the local newspapers did not report the junior teams’ results and there was no indication that these games would be the beginning of his life’s work. But in St. Marys in the early 1900s, few would have considered the possibility of a professional career in hockey.
When he left high school, Linton Treacy apparently thought briefly of a career in law. However, this plan was interrupted when he was offered a contract to play semi-pro baseball in Brandon, Manitoba. He was still a teenager and clearly any opportunity involving sports was more appealing than desk work. Treacy moved west. It is coincidental that at this same time the young lawyer, Arthur Meighen, also from St. Marys, was beginning to make a name for himself in southern Manitoba. But Meighen was not a sports fan and they probably never crossed paths.
When the baseball season ended, Treacy returned to hockey, playing one season in Regina and the next in Banff as a defenseman. By 1908, he was in Seattle, a city that became his home base although his involvement in sports would take him to communities up and down the west coast. From 1908 to 1911, his sport of choice was boxing and he soon established a reputation, winning regional titles in both middleweight and light heavyweight divisions. It was during this period that he began to use the name “Pete Muldoon” because he knew a career in professional sports would be frowned upon by his family back in Ontario. Some years later, on a visit to St. Marys, he told a Journal Argus reporter that “Pete” had been a nickname since his school days. He was a very effective promoter and he knew that Muldoon sounded like a good name for a boxer. He never changed his name officially. “Linton Treacy” is the name on the marriage license when he married Dorothy Grover in Seattle in 1924. Their two sons, Lynn and Richard, both used the surname “Treacy.” But throughout his professional life in sports, he was known as Pete Muldoon.
Linton put boxing aside in 1911 and moved to Vancouver where he became the trainer for that city’s lacrosse team. He was also a spare player for the team and practised with them. That year, the Vancouver team won the Minto Cup. Donated by the Governor-General, Lord Minto, in 1901, the trophy is still awarded to the best Junior Lacrosse team in Canada.
But Treacy’s first interest was hockey. In Vancouver, he also worked as trainer for two hockey teams, the Vancouver Millionaires and the New Westminster Royals. He was famous for his own system of massage to relieve the bumps and bruises received in these punishing sports. In 1914, the New Westminster franchise folded and the team moved to Portland, Oregon, renamed, for some reason, the Rosebuds. Treacy went with them as trainer and head coach. The following year saw him back in Seattle where he had been named head coach of an expansion team, the Seattle Metropolitans. A new arena had been built for the city and at its official opening, Treacy performed for the crowd as an ice dancer, yet another of his athletic accomplishments. His specialty was doing tricks on stilt skates, his feet 26 inches above the ice.
As the St. Marys Journal Argus reported a few years later, Linton Treacy/Pete Muldoon had many stories to tell about his sports successes. “But he abandoned the fight game and he abandoned baseball in which he was a good performer, and he abandoned lacrosse though he had a championship team. He tossed them all away and made hockey his life work because he says he thinks hockey is the greatest of all to thrill the public.”
The Seattle Metropolitans did very well under Treacy/Muldoon’s direction and challenged three times for the Stanley Cup although at that time, the playoff series had a very different format from today’s competition. Next week’s column will explain more about these Stanley Cup games and how Linton Treacy from St. Marys is still remembered in Seattle as Pete Muldoon, the man who brought professional hockey to that city.
And the story of the famous “Curse of Pete Muldoon” must be told as well.