Hockey is a family game, and there have been a number of great families in hockey history. The Patricks, The Sutters, The Richards, The Hulls, The Hextalls......and The Conachers.
The Conacher legend started way back in the 1920s and 1930s when three brothers - Lionel, Charlie and Roy - embarked upon great careers that would be capped with inductions into the Hockey Hall of Fame. That wasn't the end of the Conacher legend though as Lionel's son Brian and Charlie's son Pete also made it to the NHL.
His journey to the NHL began with the Galt Blackhawks of the OHA, where he played three seasons of junior hockey. In his last year of junior Pete lit up the OHA with 53 goals in 51 games, plus 120 points. Those are pretty unworldly stats nowadays, but even more so back then. He was rewarded for his fine season with a two game call up to Chicago late in the season. Conacher even recorded his first NHL point, an assist.
With his family ties and great season in Galt, you might have expected that there would be lots of pressure and expectations placed upon the small left winger. However that wasn't quite the case.
"I guess I probably felt a little bit of pressure. My dad, being Charlie, and then Lionel and Roy, but I never felt pressure from my teammates or management. I never felt pressure from them. I think if I felt pressure, it was just because I put it on myself. And more pressure from fans than teammates or management."
Pete coped with the pressure by simply playing hockey because he loved the game, not because he wanted to be star like his dad and uncles. It paid off for Pete as he enjoyed a 15 year professional career, 6 of which were in the National Hockey League.
Conacher split his rookie year between the St. Louis Flyers of the American Hockey League and Chicago as he collected 11 points in 41 games with the Blackhawks. It was somewhat disappointing that Pete wasn't able to step right into the Chicago lineup. The Hawks were looking for some help and counted on Pete's scoring touch that he showed the year earlier in Galt. However Pete did make the NHL on a full time basis one year later, scoring 19 goals and 28 points in 70 games in 1953-54.
Conacher started off the 1954-55 campaign slowly, collecting 2 goals and 4 assists for 6 points in 18 games. Unlike his father and uncles, there was concern that Pete was too small to play in the NHL. His lack of size and strength made him an easy target to knock off the puck and thus limited his gifted puck handling and skating abilities. The Hawks traded young Pete, still considered to be a good NHL prospect, with superstar defenseman Bill Gadsby in a blockbuster deal with the New York Rangers. Chicago got Rich Lamoureux, Allan Stanley and Nick Mickoski in return. Pete finished the year with 23 points between the two clubs and played one more season with the Rangers.
Part way through the 1956-56 season was demoted to the AHL's Buffalo Bisons where he would play 4 of the next 5 seasons. In the meantime the Rangers gave Conacher's rights to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for cash. During the 1957-58 season Pete was called up by the Leafs and played what proved to be his final 5 NHL games. Collecting one assist, it was only fitting that Pete's NHL career come to a close in the same city that his father starred in for years.
"That was an entirely different feeling putting on the Leaf uniform because I was from Toronto and because my dad had played in Toronto and had made his reputation in Toronto. So that was a little different. I felt a lot of pressure."
The following season Pete spent with with the Belleville McFarlands, a club that went on to represent Canada in the 1959 World Championships where they captured the gold medal. It was a career highlite for Pete.
"Well that was a thrill for me to be with the Belleville McFarlands in 1959 and winning the World Championship in Prague. I was in the Stanley Cup playoffs a couple times and I was in the American League playoffs six years with Hershey. I wasn't on a championship team but we had good teams."
Since retiring from professional hockey in 1966, Pete went on to work as a stock broker at the Toronto Stock Exchange. Pete's career NHL statistics included 47 goals and 86 points in 229 regular season games.
Pete is very proud of his family's history in Canadian sports.
"Well, quite honestly, I'm very proud of the family and the family name and what they accomplished in hockey. I think this past November, when the National Hockey League inducted Roy Conacher into the Hall of Fame, I think it was 41 years after he played his last game in the National Hockey League, but then to go in alongside of his two brothers, Lionel and my dad, Charlie, to have three brothers in the Hall of Fame, I think is quite an accomplishment. I don't know if that's happened anywhere else in any Hall of Fame. And then with my uncle Lionel's reputation as an all-round athlete, Canada's male athlete of the half century, there's a lot to be proud of and I'm proud of the family."