Friday, December 16, 2011

Dr. Francis "Duke" McCurry

The city of Pittsburgh has had it’s fair share of hockey legends – Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Sidney Crosby. Dr. Francis “Duke” McCurry does not quite fit that list, but there was a time when the good doctor was very much a hockey legend in Pittsburgh.

Toronto-born McCurry was a multi-sport star, excelling at canoeing, baseball and football. He was even the Canadian amateur welterweight boxing champion in 1916 and he was an all star at lacrosse.

But it was hockey that he pursued the furthest, although that may have been partly out of convenience. McCurry was as bright in the classroom as he was spectacular on the sporting field. He moved to Pittsburgh to study dentistry, passing his spare time by playing with the local minor league team, the Yellowjackets.

Somewhat inadvertently McCurry’s hockey career became more serious in 1925. The Yellowjackets were essentially disbanded in order to make room for a new team in town. The Pittsburgh Pirates would play in a league still in it’s infancy. That league was called the National Hockey League.

That’s right. The NHL first came to Pittsburgh in 1925. It was a short lived venture, only 4 seasons. McCurry, a Memorial Cup champion, was already established as quite the local hockey attraction, so he joined the Pirates for four seasons.

The Pirates traded McCurry to the Montreal Maroons in 1929. But McCurry had no intention of leaving Pittsburgh. He refused to report and sat out the whole hockey season. As a dentist I’m sure he found other ways to occupy his time.

McCurry did return to hockey for the 1930-31 season, as the Yellowjackets were reincarnated in the IHL.

Later in the 1930s McCurry returned to Toronto to establish his dental practice. He died in Toronto on November 8th, 1965. He was 65 years old.

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