HISTORIC ST. MARYS: Pete Muldoon, Hockey Coach

  • History   Wednesday, September 29, 2021   Mary Smith

By Mary Smith
Linton Treacy left his hometown, St. Marys, in 1905 when he was 18 years old and went west like many other young men from Ontario at that time. But while many of them started their new lives out west as farm labourers or perhaps with the railway, Treacy set out to make his living through sports. By 1908, he arrived in Seattle, having played semi-pro baseball or hockey in Brandon, Regina and Banff as he moved westward. From 1908 to 1911, he was a boxer, using the name Pete Muldoon for his appearances in the ring. Linton more or less implied in newspaper interviews that he used this nickname as a boxer because his parents would not have liked to see the family name associated with that sport.
Whether or not they completely accepted or approved of their son’s choice of career, the family always kept in touch. When he left boxing for hockey, his parents might have been happier to follow his flamboyant career, very different from their quiet, conventional life in St. Marys. This week’s photograph shows Linton Treacy on stilt skates. He was an accomplished ice dancer, showcasing this skill to promote skating in various arenas throughout the west. Performing tricks on stilts was part of his repertoire and, looking for publicity, he would have been glad this photograph was published in a number of newspapers and magazines. Did he send a copy home to his parents to show their friends? We’ll never know. Nor will we know whether, in 1917, they followed the progress of the Seattle Metropolitans, coached by Pete Muldoon, toward the Stanley Cup.
They would not have read about it in the St. Marys newspapers. By 1917, World War I was well underway. Local sports had been suspended because many young men had enlisted. Both the Journal and the Argus reported the usual local stories about meetings of town council, church and school events, businesses changing hands, etc. but every spare space was crammed with war news. There were letters from men serving overseas and, with increasing frequency, reports of injuries and deaths. However, the United States did not officially enter the war until April 1917. In March of that year, Seattle still had time for the excitement of playoff hockey.
The Seattle Metropolitans hockey team was formed in 1915 by two Canadian brothers, Frank and Lester Patrick, who had also, a few years earlier, created the Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA.) They built a state-of-the-art arena in Seattle for their team with artificial ice and seating for 4,000 fans. The Patricks recruited professional players from the National Hockey Association in the east and hired Linton Treacy/Pete Muldoon as the coach. In 1917, their third season, they won the league championship and then went on to meet the defending Stanley Cup champions, the NHA’s Montreal Canadiens.
At that time, the Stanley Cup was decided between the winners of the NHA and the PCHA – east versus west. But because of the challenges of cross-continental travel, the venue alternated: one year, the eastern winner hosted the entire five-game series and the following year, all the games were played in the west. To mitigate home-ice advantage, the games within the series alternated – NHA rules one game and PCHA rules the next. There were several important differences: the most obvious was that while the NHA played with six men a side, in the west, seven players were on the ice at one time. Teams in both leagues had a nine-man roster. That meant limited substitutions and the skaters would likely expect to play the entire game. The Canadiens arrived in Seattle in early March. They were so confident they would win that apparently they didn’t even bring the Cup along with them. The Metropolitans took the series 3 to 1, completely out-skating the team from Montreal. This victory made Pete Muldoon’s Metropolitans the first American team to win the Stanley Cup. It was also Seattle’s first major professional league title in any sport.
In 1918, the war caught up with Seattle hockey. The Metropolitans could not field a team to defend their title because many of their potential players – Canadian and American – had either volunteered or been drafted. A team from Vancouver went east and lost to the Toronto Arenas of the newly formed National Hockey League. In 1919, the Metropolitans again were the top team in the west and, again, the Montreal Canadiens came west to play the series. This time, the teams were evenly matched but before the fifth and deciding game, some members of the Montreal team came down with the Spanish flu, the pandemic that had swept across the continent and was possibly spread in Seattle by the team from Canada. Although Montreal offered to forfeit, Muldoon and his team felt that the only fair option was to suspend the series. The Stanley Cup was not awarded that year.
The Metropolitans lost their final Stanley Cup challenge to the Ottawa Senators in 1920 and folded in 1924. Pete Muldoon went to Portland where he coached another PCHA team, the Rosebuds. In 1926, that team was purchased by Frederic McLaughlin who had been awarded a franchise as the NHL expanded into the United States. The team was relocated to Chicago and renamed the Black Hawks. Muldoon went with them as coach. Moving to Illinois put him closer to St. Marys. In December 1926, there was an article in the Journal Argus describing a quick visit home. His father had died in 1920 but his mother was there to welcome him and “Mrs. Treacy was returning to the Windy City with him to spend a few weeks there.”
But for Treacy/Muldoon, coaching in Chicago was not a good experience. He was frustrated with McLaughlin, the club owner, who had his own ideas how the team should be run and was constantly meddling. Muldoon resigned at the end of the first season and returned to Seattle. Some years later, a sports columnist looking for an idea invented “The Curse of Pete Muldoon.” He wrote that as he left Chicago, Muldoon put “an Irish curse” on the Black Hawks, predicting that they would never win the league title. It was just a story but the curse held until 1967 when the Black Hawks finally did finish first in the league. They lost in the playoff round to the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Perhaps the curse was then transferred to Toronto!)
The rest of Linton Treacy’s life was dedicated to bringing professional hockey back to Seattle and to Washington State. He became part owner of the Seattle Eskimos, but tragedy struck before he had a chance to do much work with his new team. On March 6, 1929, on a business trip to nearby Tacoma, he had a massive heart attack and died instantly. Not yet 42, he left a wife and two young sons. The Journal Argus reprinted long accounts from Seattle newspapers of the stunned reaction of Muldoon’s friends and the city’s hockey fans. At his funeral, there were “thousands of dollars’ worth of floral tributes” and a crowd that “filled the chapel to overflowing.” The minister’s eulogy described Muldoon as “a true sportsman, a lover of fair play, a believer in clean living and a man whose fine morals and exemplary habits won him the respect of everyone.”
In 2017, there was a revival of interest in Pete Muldoon on the centenary of the Metropolitan’s Stanley Cup win. When the new NHL expansion team, the Seattle Kraken, skate onto the ice, some hockey folks will know that the “S” on their jerseys has been purposely designed as an enhanced version of the “S” that Pete Muldoon’s team proudly wore on their uniforms so many years ago.