This is the fourth in a series of examinations of legends related to Hockey and whether they are true or false.
This installment is a re-format edition, so these legends have already been posted on this site, just not in this format.
HOCKEY LEGEND: Fired Chicago Blackhawks coach Pete Muldoon put a curse on the Blackhawks that lasted almost forty years.
STATUS: False (on top of the whole “there’s no such thing as curses” part of it)
Pete Muldoon was the coach of the Chicago Blackhawks in their first season in the 1926-27 hockey season.
The Hawks played well, but lost in the first round of the playoffs. The Blackhawks owner then fired Muldoon after just the one season, as the owner (Frederic McLaughlin) felt that the team was talented enough to finish first instead of third.
Years later, in 1943, hockey reporter Jim Coleman of TheToronto Globe and Mail wrote that when McLaughlin told Muldoon that the team should have finished first, Muldoon replied that the team was not good enough to finish first, upon which McLaughlin fired him on the spot. In retaliation, Muldoon placed a curse upon the Blackhawks – “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.”
And sure enough, even though at the time the Blackhawks had already won two Stanley Cups since Muldoon’s firing (1934 and 1938), neither time did they finish first.
And they did not finish first in either their division or the NHL period (when there was just one division) until 1967!!
Now, first off, of course it is false because, you know, there’s no such thing AS a curse!
But secondly, once the Blackhawks finished first, Coleman then admitted to making the whole thing up.
How could such a story make it that long with Muldoon or McLaughlin debunking it?
Well, Muldoon died in 1929.
McLaughlin died less than a year after Coleman’s story (and heck, for McLaughlin, the story was probably better than the Blackhawks just not being good enough to finish first!).
So Coleman followed one of the first rules of making up stories – make them up about people who can’t call you a liar!!
HOCKEY LEGEND: A National Hockey League franchise never actually came up with a team name during its fifteen years of existence.
Professional hockey was, and IS, very popular in Montreal.
It was so popular that in 1924, the National Hockey League (NHL) decided to expand and a second Montreal franchise to go along with the Montreal Canadiens, who were one of the original teams in the NHL.
The theory was that this new team would appeal more to the English-speaking people of Montreal while the French-speakers would remain fans of the Canadiens (note that the nickname for the Canadiens is the Habs, which is a shortening of the term Les Habitants, which is what the French settlers of Quebec called themselves).
The new team paid a $15,000 entrance fee ($11,000 of it went to the Montreal Canadiens, presumably to assuage them over the new competition) and had an arena built, the Montreal Forum (which would become much more famous for its usage by the Canadiens for decades).
The team had everything it needed to get started – except a name!
And shockingly, they never actually officially PICKED one!!
The team just referred to itself officially as the Montreal Professional Hockey Club.
Eventually, the media began referring to them as the Montreal Maroons, due to their jersey color.
When the team won the Stanley Cup in 1926 (just two years into their existence!), the league engraved the name Maroons into the Cup.
“Won / By Montreal ‘Maroons’ 1925-26″
However, when they won again in 1935, the League this time engraved:
“Montreal Professional Hockey Club / Winners / 1934-35″
Due to the Great Depression, Montreal could no longer support two teams, and the Maroons folded.
And they never got to officially pick a team name…
HOCKEY LEGEND: The New York Rangers acquired a player in 1990 for $1.00.
There’s not a lot you can get for a dollar, even in 1990. At least in 1990, comic books were about a $1.00 each, so you could buy a comic book!
But really, a dollar did not have a lot of buying power – but it was enough to buy a hockey player!
Ray Sheppard (shown below from later in career when he was with the Florida Panthers) had a great rookie debut for the Buffalo Sabres in the 1987-88 season, scoring 38 goals to go along with 27 assists.
Sheppard came in second in the Rookie of the Year balloting.
However, Sheppard’s time in Buffalo was mostly a negative experience, and by the end of the 1989-90 season, he had actually been sent down to the minors following an injury and a disappointing 4 goals for the Sabres.
The Sabres and Sheppard were at loggerheads, and figuring out a new contract was going to be difficult. Ultimately, the Sabres determined that they would just buy Sheppard out for $75,000.
Before that could happen, though, New York Rangers General Manager Neil Smith offered to basically make the problem go away – he would buy Sheppard’s contract for the sum of $1.00.
In this instance, the dollar is misleading – it exists only because teams have to give SOMEthing up if they acquire a player. In this situation, what Smith was REALLY paying the Sabres was the $75,000 that they were going to give to Sheppard as a buy-out.
However, you can’t acquire a player like that, so the Rangers had to give up SOMEthing, and that something was one dollar.
The Sabres actually threw in a conditional $50,000 if Sheppard did not play 60 of the 82 Ranger games in the 1990-91 season (likewise, Smith would throw in a draft pick if Sheppard scored 30 or more goals).
Sheppard surprised the Sabres by rebounding with the Rangers and having a strong season with 24 goals and 23 assists.
Sheppard signed with the Detroit Red Wings for the 1991-92 season and spent five seasons with the Red Wings where he really blossomed, even scoring over 50 goals one season!!
Sheppard retired after the 2000 season.
I wonder how much a 1990 dollar would have been worth in Canada?
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is email@example.com