April 01, 2009

The Curse Of Muldoon

This is Pete Muldoon. Way back in 1926 he became the first head coach of the Chicago Black Hawks. Note that the team's nickname originally was two words, not one.

Muldoon had spent eight seasons coaching in Seattle, and had guided the Metropolitans to three Stanley Cup finals appearances. Oddly enough, the Ontario native moved to the American northwest to pursue a career as a professional boxer, not as a hockey coach.

Hawks owner Major Frederick McLaughlin hired Muldoon to coach his new hockey team, and had great expectations. But things did not go as either had hope. The Hawks finished 19-22-3 in the 44 game season in 1926-27.

McLaughlin blamed Muldoon for the third place finish, and fired him after just the one season. Muldoon was said to be irate.

In 1943 famed Toronto Globe & Mail columnist Jim Coleman recalled the incident, complete with the following quote. "Fire me, Major, and you'll never finish first. I'll put a curse on this team that will hoodoo it until the end of time," Muldoon said angrily.

Way back in those days there was much greater emphasis on winning first place in the league than there is nowadays. In fact it was almost as important as winning the Stanley Cup.

Supposedly the "Curse of Muldoon" was very effective as it was not until 1967 that the Hawks did finish first place in their own division, the supposed breaking of the curse. They had won Stanley Cups in 1934, 1938 and 1961, however.

Some historians suggest it was the first such curse in North American pro sports.

But there is a catch, which is why I am telling you this on April Fool's Day. It was completely made up. Many years later Coleman admitted he made up the entire account while pressed to meet a writing deadline back in 1943.

But the legend grew into fact, with Chicago and NHL scribes everywhere passing on the story and even changing it and expanding upon it over the years. The Curse of Muldoon has very much been a part of the hockey lexicon in Chicago.

Ultimately the late Pete Muldoon was the only true victim of his supposed curse. He is remembered as a hot-head when in truth he was anything but. But I guess at least he is remembered.

Muldoon should be remembered as a great hockey man, as attested by none other than Frank and Lester Patrick. In many ways he was the father of hockey in the American northwest, Seattle and Tacoma, Washington and in Portland, Oregon in particular. Had he not prematurely died of a heart attack in 1929 perhaps big league hockey would have continued it's growth in the area.

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