The Curse of Muldoon

Posted: September 2, 2015

The curse of Muldoon was a curse that was believed to have kept the Chicago Black Hawks of the NHL from finishing in first place in their division. The Curse of Muldoon is considered by historians to be the first of many such curses in North American sports.

The Start and Effects of the Curse of Muldoon

The curse is said to have begun following the acrimonious firing of then Black Hawks coach Pete Muldoon in 1927. Muldoon had spent a successful eight-year spell in Seattle, guiding the Metropolitans to three Stanley Cup finals appearances. When he took up the Hawks job in 1926 the team was in its first season having been formed at the beginning of the 1916/27 season. His Stanley Cup win in 1917 with the Seattle Metropolitans still make him the youngest coach, at 30, to win the Stanley Cup. The Hawks enjoyed a relatively successful season, as they made the playoffs where they were to face the Boston Bruins. They however lost the series to the Bruins and team owner Frederic McLaughlin fired is believed that the two men had a heated argument over the quality of the team. McLaughlin was of the opinion that the Black Hawks roster was good enough to finish first and that they had underperformed that season. Muldoon reportedly disagreed and was fired but not before proclaiming to McLaughlin, “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.” Although Jim Coleman, the writer who first printed the story in 1943 actually later admitted to making it up in order to meet a deadline, many people held on to the idea of a curse as the Hawks were in a struggle of sorts. However, the legend grew into fact as it was widely passed by Chicago and NHL scribes.

At the time, finishing first in regular season was considered as prestigious as winning the Stanley Cup itself. Between 1927-the year the curse was reportedly cast- and 1967, the Hawks only managed to finish first once, in 1967 when by most accounts the curse is believed to have been broken. When they finally did break the curse in 1966/67, they did it in style finishing 17 points ahead of their nearest challenger. This was a whole 40 years after the curse was proclaimed and 23 years after the death of Muldoon. When they finally did break the curse in 1966/67, they did it in style finishing 17 points ahead of their nearest challenger. This was a whole 40 years after the curse was proclaimed and 23 years after the death of Muldoon. Although the Hawks did win the Stanley Cup in 1934, 1938 and 1961, they had only finished second in the one-division NHL. They entered the playoffs as favorites for the Stanley Cup but they were unceremoniously eliminated in the semifinals by the Toronto Maple Leafs who then went on to win the Stanley Cup. Since 1967, the Blackhawks have finished first 14 times but many peoples continue to hold on to the fable of the Muldoon Curse under the premise that it is responsible for the team’s failure to win the Stanley Cup in the same year it has finished in first place, the latest being in 2013. They played in the Stanley Cup finals seven times since 1927 but have only won the cup once, in 2010. The 39 year wait for the Stanley Cup (1961 to 2010) is the second longest drought any current NHL team has ever experienced, only behind the New York Rangers’ 54-e-year wait (1940-1994).

Due to the curse many people think of Pete Muldoon as a hot-head, while in truth he was just the opposite. Both Muldoon and McLaughlin were tough minded men. Muldoon was a reputable pugilist and even pursued a professional boxing career in between his stints with the Metropolitans and the Hawks. Major McLaughlin as the Black Hawks owner insisted on being referred to, was by many accounts an arrogant and proud fellow. Muldoon was not a loudmouth but the level to which McLaughlin irked him was evident when he accused him of having very little knowledge of the game yet wanting to run the team himself, a few weeks after he was fired. Ultimately, this curse remains the detail for which Muldoon is remembered rather than being an inspiration hockey figure in the American Northwest.

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