Pete Muldoon (1887-1929) was Seattle's archetypal sports hero. Born in St. Mary's, Ontario, he moved to Seattle in his early twenties and soon rose to prominence as a championship boxer from the Washington Athletic Club. He then turned his attention to hockey as head coach of the Seattle Metropolitans and, later, as co-owner and coach of the Seattle Eskimos. Muldoon's 1917 Metropolitans became the first U.S. team to win the Stanley Cup, and at 29 years, 9 months, Muldoon remains (as of 2020) the youngest coach to capture hockey's most coveted prize. A popular and beloved man about town, Muldoon was just 41 when he died of a heart attack in 1929. In the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, news of his death ran above the fold on the front page, the story citing Muldoon as "a leading figure in Northwest sportdom as an athlete and promoter" ("Seattle Fans Mourn ...").
Pugilist "Pete Muldoon"
Pete Muldoon was born Colonel Linton Treacy on June 4, 1887. A skilled athlete in his youth, he starred in baseball, hockey (he played goalie), lacrosse, and boxing. He studied law at Stratford College in Ontario before halting his education to sign a baseball contract with a semipro team in Brandon, Manitoba. From there, he moved to Seattle in 1908 or early 1909, and as the Seattle Post-Intelligencer wrote, "began his spectacular Seattle career as a boxer" at a time when boxing "was the center of Seattle sportdom" ("P. Muldoon, Promoter, ..."). Treacy chose the pseudonym Pete Muldoon for his athletic pursuits because, his son Lynn told The New York Times, "pursuing a career in professional sports was frowned upon in his native Ontario" ("Blackhawks: Cursed ..."). Muldoon was Linton Treacy to his family and friends. His 1924 marriage license united Linton Treacy with Dorothy Grover of Seattle; his 1925 naturalization paperwork listed his name as Linton Treacy; and his sons, Lynn and Dick, carried the Treacy surname.
Muldoon announced his presence on the Seattle sports scene when he won the heavyweight championship at the Pacific Northwest Amateur (PNA) Boxing championships in May 1909. The event was hugely popular in the city, according to The Seattle Times: "The fact that the P.N.A. boxing and wrestling championships are to be held in Seattle for the first time, and the further fact that professional boxing is not allowed in this city, have served to create a big interest in the tournament" ("Two More ..."). By winning the signature event in what the Times said was the best bout of the evening, Muldoon became one of the first "star" athletes in fast-growing Seattle.
That September, Muldoon advanced to the Pacific Coast championship at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific-Exposition in Seattle before losing to Los Angeles boxer Dick Allen, who outweighed Muldoon by nearly 80 pounds. Muldoon then became a headliner for "smokers" between various local boxing clubs; these were Seattle's first heavily attended sporting events. At the height of his boxing career, the Times called Muldoon "the best amateur boxer of his weight in this part of the country" ("Muldoon Outpoints Strong Boy ..."), while the Seattle Star called him "practically unbeatable" ("Ballard Club ..."). A Times story six years after his death called Muldoon "the daddy of all Northwest heavies" ("Heavies Late ...").
Muldoon won another PNA championship in 1910, held that spring in Vancouver, British Columbia. "Pete Muldoon Cleans Up in Middleweight Class" proclaimed a Seattle Times headline. Three weeks later, "before the largest crowd of the year," Muldoon knocked out PNA heavyweight champion Frank Westerman, further cementing Muldoon as the "cleverest big boy around here" ("Robinson Expects ..."). The most "well-known boxer of this city" ("Muldoon Will Referee ..."), Muldoon was highly skilled with fast hands and quick feet.
Soon after his 1910 PNA victory, Muldoon turned pro. In January 1911, he fought Cle Elum's Jack Lester (1891-1918) at the Dreamland Rink in Tacoma. Lester was trained by Tommy Burns (1881-1955), who had famously lost his heavyweight title in 1908 to boxing legend Jack Johnson. For a week leading up to the fight, previews ran nearly every day in the three Seattle newspapers. Lester, outweighing Muldoon by nearly 30 pounds, was favored by gamblers. Fan interest was so high that a special six-car train took spectators from Ballard to Tacoma and back home after the fight. "A monster crowd saw the contest," wrote the Star ("Lester Wins ...").
At the opening bell, Muldoon's speed bothered Lester. Soon, though, the heavier man took control of the fight, and Lester pummeled Muldoon, sending him sprawling to the canvas seven times before the fight was called. The Tacoma Times reported that the bout "was simply one in which a very strong man with no fear broke down the guard of a man who boxes cleverly with men of less strength" ("Lester Too Strong ..."). Muldoon was valiant in defeat, wrote the Post-Intelligencer: "Muldoon has had nothing but praise in his favor for the game battle he put up" ("Comment On Boxers ...").
Later in 1911, Muldoon moved to Vancouver to train that city's professional lacrosse squad. He continued to fight sporadically for the next few years. A Westminster Daily News article remarked that Muldoon was "more famed in the pugilistic world than in lacrosse, although he has the proud honor of being trainer of the 1911 Minto Cup team" ("Ladies Hockey Team Wins ..."). At the lacrosse season's conclusion, he added two hockey teams -- the Vancouver Millionaires and New Westminster Royals -- to his training stable. In 1912, the Vancouver Daily World reported that the "hardest worked man around the Arena these days is trainer Pete Muldoon" ("Gossips"). It noted that there wasn't one member of the Millionaires "who isn't suffering from some cuts or bruises, and they all look to the trainer for relief." Muldoon was "kept busy with his famous system of massage" and was "always a hog for work" ("Gossips").
Skating Into the Coaching Business
When the New Westminster franchise moved to Portland for the 1914-1915 season, Muldoon went along as the team's trainer and new head coach. Former Royals player Ken Mallen told the Oregon Daily Journal that Muldoon was "the best trainer in British Columbia" ("Fast Men Assured ..."). Muldoon spent one season in Portland coaching the Rosebuds before the Seattle Arena was built, and then returned to his adopted hometown as head coach of the expansion Seattle Metropolitans.
Muldoon himself was a brilliant skater, "blessed with athletic talent of an all-around ability such as few boys have" ("Hot Dogs! Hockey ..."). He was a renowned ice dancer, "known the length of the coast as one of the best fancy skate artists in the west" ("Feminine Teams ..."). According to a 1917 Times profile of Muldoon, before he "learned his multiplication tables he was doing stunts on skates that were the envy of his schoolmates. When he is not bossing the Seattle puck chasers, Muldoon puts in his time doing exhibition skating in rinks in all parts of the United States. Some of his favorite and most difficult stunts are performed on stilt skates, which raise his feet twenty-six inches above the surface of the ice." Muldoon explained that "with practice a man can do anything on stilts that he can on regular skates. All it takes is nerve. I used to whistle to keep up my courage" ("Mets' Manager ...").
Muldoon headlined the Seattle Arena grand opening in November 1915 with a pairs ice dance. In a 1917 fundraiser benefitting the Seattle Fire Department, "fancy skating took a prominent part in the evening's entertainment, Pete Muldoon and Miss La Mont probably bringing down the greatest show of enthusiasm from the big audience" ("Down Easters ...").
Muldoon had a deft touch in business, too. Early in his career, he ran sporting goods stores on the West Coast with brothers Lester Patrick (1883-1960) and Frank Patrick (1885-1960). After he settled full-time in Seattle, he bought the concessions business at Woodland Park, including the boat rentals at Green Lake. Upon his death, he left his widow Dorothy $60,000, the equivalent of about $900,000 in 2020 dollars.
Muldoon spent 12 seasons as a major league head coach -- eight managing the Metropolitans, three with the Portland Rosebuds, and one as the first head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks. In eight years with the Mets, Muldoon led Seattle to the playoffs six times, won four Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA) championships, and played in the Stanley Cup finals three times -- 1917, 1919, and 1920. His career .508 winning percentage is the highest of any PCHA head coach.
Muldoon coached three Hockey Hall of Famers: Frank Foyston (inducted in 1958), Jack Walker (1960), and Harry "Hap" Holmes (1972). All three spent eight or more years under Muldoon's tutelage. He had a knack for revitalizing careers, taking four players released from other clubs -- Bernie Morris, Bobby Rowe, Jim Riley, and Roy Rickey -- and turning them into all-stars. Muldoon's roster remained remarkably stable in an era of one-year contracts and rampant turnover. A full PCHA roster consisted of just nine skaters, yet seven players wore the Seattle "S" in at least seven of the Metropolitans' nine seasons – Foyston (9), Walker (9), Rowe (9), Holmes (8), Morris (8), Rickey (8), and Riley (7).
Muldoon's system was sophisticated, athletic, and often dominant. His Seattle teams led the PCHA in defense five times, finished second twice, and were runners-up in scoring seven times. The Mets were highly disciplined, with Muldoon telling the Post-Intelligencer, "we're going to keep hockey a clean game on the coast. I have instructed the Seattle players to take the bumps and refrain from roughing" ("Hockey Association Has ..."). The Mets finished among the two least-penalized PCHA teams in five of Muldoon's eight years.
His 1917 Stanley Cup championship squad had the league's MVP (Foyston), leading scorer (Morris), and top goalie (Holmes). The underdog Mets held off the 1915 Stanley Cup champion Vancouver Millionaires to claim the PCHA title before throttling the defending Stanley Cup champion Montreal Canadiens in the Final, outscoring hockey's greatest franchise 19-3 over the last three games.
In his recap of the decisive Game 4, the P-I's Royal Brougham wrote the Mets "are now reigning supreme in puck circles, with the famous Stanley Cup tucked under their arm. While several thousand ardent fans cheered them on, Muldoon's pets beat the flying Frenchmen at everything in the hockey category. Speed, which has been such an important asset of the locals in former games, figured as strongly as ever and the invaders were simply smothered by the aggressive style of the Seattle men" ("Seattle Wins World's ..."). Wrote the Times: "Pete Muldoon's puck chasers brought to Seattle the first world's title in any sport ever held by a Seattle team and earned the distinction of being the first American team ever to win the supreme honors of the hockey world" ("Mets Capture Hockey Title ...").
With World War I raging, the Metropolitans were prevented from defending their Stanley Cup title in 1918. Several players were called into service, and Muldoon went to Portland to coach the Rosebuds for another season. After the armistice was signed in November 1918, he returned to coach the Metropolitans for the 1918-1919 season, a campaign that was delayed by a month because of the Spanish Flu pandemic that killed millions worldwide. The Metropolitans once again reached the Stanley Cup Final and a rematch with Montreal. And then, on the morning of a winner-take-all Game 6, the series was postponed because of the pandemic. Five Montreal players were hospitalized, and Joe Hall, a future hockey Hall of Famer, died in a Seattle hospital. Without enough skaters to play, Montreal first proposed using amateur players in the final game, and then tried to forfeit. Both offers were refused by Muldoon and PCHA President Frank Patrick.
The series thus ended in a 2-2-1 tie, though Seattle had outscored Montreal 19-10, including 14-2 in games played by PCHA rules, which were scheduled for Game 6. On his return to Montreal, Canadiens star player and Hall of Famer Newsy Lalonde told reporters, "the Canadiens could never have hoped to win under Western rules. [Lalonde] looked for anything but a victory for his team" ("Lalonde Says ...").
Muldoon led the Metropolitans to the Stanley Cup Final for a third and final time in 1920. The team lost in five games to the Ottawa Senators. He coached the Metropolitans four more seasons, claiming another two PCHA regular-season titles and a second-place finish. Though still popular in Seattle, the Mets disbanded following the 1923-1924 season when the Olympic Hotel was built and the neighboring Seattle Ice Arena was converted into a hotel parking garage. Muldoon coached again in Portland for the 1925-1926 season, and then moved with the Portland franchise to Chicago, where it became the Chicago Blackhawks of the National Hockey League.
The Blackhawks finished third in the American Division in their inaugural season. They topped the NHL in scoring but lost in the first round of the playoffs. Muldoon clashed with Blackhawks owner Frederic McLaughlin and tired of McLaughlin's meddling. "Our worthy president wanted to run the club, the players, the referees, etc.," Muldoon said. "He learned the game very quickly. In fact, after seeing his first game, he wrote me a letter telling me what players should and should not do" ("Blackhawks: Cursed ..."). Muldoon resigned immediately after the season and returned to Seattle.
'Known From Coast to Coast'
Just as Muldoon was fleeing Chicago, efforts were underway to build a new arena in Seattle. Funding was secured by 1925 with a site selected soon thereafter for a Civic Auditorium that included an arena suitable for hockey. Two competing factions were hoping to secure the arena lease and restart Seattle hockey. One group, the Seattle Ice Skating and Hockey Club, was comprised of Muldoon, boxing promoter Nate Druxman (1892-1969), and former Seattle mayor Hugh Caldwell (1881-1955). The second group was led by former Washington Lieutenant Governor and University of Washington football and baseball star Wee Coyle (1888-1977) and former Seattle police chief W. B. Severyns.
In February 1928, Coyle was named general manager of the Auditorium, beating out candidates Roscoe "Torchy" Torrance (1899-1990) and Ralph Emerson, though as the Times reported, "the fact that Coyle will be manager of the Auditorium will have little weight in deciding the lease" ("Seek Hockey"). More important was a strong relationship with Frank Patrick, the "power behind the throne of Northwest hockey. ... Patrick and Muldoon have long been associated in the game. ... If it came to a showdown, Muldoon probably is in the best position to give Seattle a winning team for he is one of the outstanding hockey managers in the country, being known from coast to coast" ("Seek Hockey").
In March, the Seattle City Council awarded the arena lease to Muldoon's group, and Muldoon could now add hockey owner to his professional quill. The terms were for 10 years, giving the club "exclusive use of the arena for five months following the 1st of November. A guaranteed rental of $10,000 for each five-month period with a small percentage of the receipts in excess of $50,000 is the consideration the city will receive" ("10-year Paper ...").
The lease signing in May 1928 was headline news. "One important step in the campaign to bring ice hockey, the king of winter sports back to Seattle was taken this morning when city officials signed the ten-year lease," wrote the Times. "With the lease in force, the hockey association will now go ahead with the actual formation of the Northwest International Hockey League, which has been contingent upon gaining a rink here and the league in turn will apply to the National Hockey Association for sanction" ("10-year Paper ...").
On May 18, Seattle Mayor Bertha Landes (1868-1943) laid the cornerstone for the Civic Auditorium in a groundbreaking ceremony. For the Seattle Hockey Club, the future looked bright. The Times wrote, "should their plans go through, it will be Pete Muldoon's personality, Pete Muldoon's hustle and Pete Muldoon's knowledge of hockey players and playing, of the pleasing of the public, that will be the hub of the new club's activities" ("Hot Dogs! Hockey ...").
In summer 1928, the league agreed to a minor league status with four teams -- Vancouver, Victoria, Portland and Seattle -- with future expansion planned for Tacoma and then into California. Seattle officially reestablished itself as a hockey town that November. The arena opened with a sold-out ice festival on November 8, with 6,000 packing the structure and an estimated 3,000 turned away. The name Eskimos was chosen as the team nickname on November 12, and on November 23, another 6,000 fans filled the arena to capacity for the Eskimos' home opener, watching Seattle beat Portland, 5-2. "They love their hockey, do these Seattle sports fans," wrote the Times ("Seattle Leads Hockey ...").
The Eskimos' first season was quite similar to the Metropolitans' inaugural campaign. The Eskimos opened the year playing well, winning their first three contests before struggling mightily while the players learned the intricacies of Muldoon's system. By mid-March, however, they had climbed back into second place.
Gone Too Soon
Still intent on bringing a team to Tacoma, Muldoon, Druxman and Caldwell traveled to Tacoma on March 13, 1929 to scout a potential arena location on Pacific Avenue. According to the Post-Intelligencer, "they parked alongside the site and were talking over among themselves when Muldoon slumped over. After attempting first aid, Caldwell and Druxman rushed Muldoon to Pierce County Hospital" ("P. Muldoon, Promoter ..."). The following afternoon's Times simply wrote, "Pete Muldoon is gone" ("Seattle Fans Mourn ..."). He had suffered a fatal heart attack at age 41.
Muldoon's death left a gaping hole in Seattle hockey, one that seemed to grow bigger over time. A 1941 Seattle Times article noted that "so often sports domains crumple when the motivating figure dies, as Seattle hockey did with the passing of Pete Muldoon, or the New York Yankees when Col. Jake Ruppert was stricken" ("The Timer ..."). The Yankees soon recovered to become baseball's most storied franchise. For Seattle, however, it took nearly 90 years for major league hockey to return, when the city was granted an NHL expansion franchise in December 2018. It is true that hockey in Seattle continued nearly unabated after Muldoon's death, even producing star players such as Guyle Fielder and some formidable teams, but Muldoon and the Metropolitans were still the standard-bearers for Seattle hockey more than a century after their Stanley Cup triumph.
At the conclusion of the 1929-1930 season, the Eskimos announced the Pete Muldoon Award, to be given each season to the team's most inspirational player. Former Metropolitans star Jack Walker won the inaugural honor. It was hoped that the Muldoon Award would become Seattle hockey's most prized trophy, but with the sport in disarray after Muldoon's death, only three winners -- Walker (1930), Ernie Anderson (1931), and Gordie Fraser (1934) -- were ever named.
Muldoon's impact on the game lasted long after his death. A January 1929 Seattle Times article called Muldoon the "peer of hockey tutors," stating, "we doubt if another man in hockey besides Muldoon can boast of sending six managers and two coaches out into the world to make their living more by their wits than with their physical skill" ("Muldoon Peer of Hockey Tutors").
In 1933, when the Eskimos hired Frank Foyston as head coach, the Times wrote, "Seattle returns to the Pete Muldoon school of managers in hopes of landing a championship ... [Foyston] spent nine years under Muldoon on one of the greatest ice machines ever gathered" ("It Isn't News, But ..."). The same story reported that, "out of that aggregation came successful managers: Bobby Rowe, the Portland boss; Happy Holmes, Bernie Morris, Jack Walker, Foyston and others who made successes of teaching the type of play the old fox, Muldoon, drilled into them" ("It Isn't News, But ..."). Wrote The New York Times: "Muldoon was an experienced coach and good teacher; 8 of the 16 men who played for his Blackhawks eventually coached, including Dick Irvin (1892-1957), who won four Cups from 1928 to 1956" ("Blackhawks: Cursed ...").
A coach who transcended his sport, Muldoon was a Seattle icon. His funeral was heavily attended. "Men wearing the earmarks of fistiana, lithe-limbed hockey players and sport lovers from every walk of life joined in a remarkable tribute to Pete Muldoon," wrote the P-I. "Men of wealth arrived in limousines and humble admirers of the popular leader arrived on foot or by streetcar. Policeman, politicians, fistic fans, football stars of the present and past, and many expensively furred women made up the funeral throng that filled the chapel to overflowing" ("Sports Fans Pay Tribute ..."). The Reverend W. A. Major eulogized Muldoon "as a true sportsman, in the finest sense of the word, 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" ("Sports Fans Pay Tribute ...").