The Washington Capitals will move the Robert Picard defection case into U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, probably on Monday, seeking to have the Quebec Nordiques of the World Hockey Association held in contempt for violating a 1974 consent decree of that court.
"There is no purpose served in debating with the Quebec organization or Robert's new attorney," said Peter O'Malley, the Capital President. "We both want the same thing and we'll let the court decide it."
The immediate goal is to obtain a show-cause-order, in which the Nordiques must show why they should not be held in comtempt for violating the decree. Judge Leon Higginbotham presided over the original case, in which the WHA, in return for a substanial amount of money, agreed not to sign any NHL players still under contract.
Picard, the Capitals' No. 1 amateur draft choice, signed an agreement with Washington June 14, then signed a Quebec contract on Monday.
Picard's lawyer, Guy Bertrand, contends that the Capitals' agreement is invalid, because Picard did not sign a formal contract and because he was not properly advised by his original agent, Rodrique Lemoyne.
The NHL, obviously fearing new WHA raids as an aftermath to the breakdown of merger talks, voted unanimously yesterday during a telephone conference call to join the Capitals in seeking compliance with the consent decree.
The key portion of the consent decree reads, "Neither the WHA nor any WHA member shall offer to contract or contract with any hockey player for services to be rendered by him during any period for which the player is under contract to render services to any NHL club."
O'Malley said the Capitals were anxious to obtain a quick ruling, because "we want to get Robert into camp so he won't be so far behind the others that he can't make the team."
The Capitals open training camp Monday in Hershey, Pa.
The Picard problem somewhat dampened yesterday's luncheon at which general manager Max McNab and coach Tom McVie were lauded by O'Malley and team owner Abe Pollin. Besides unstinting praise, the pair received long-term contracts containing pay raises.
McNab returned from a Quebec confrontation with Picard in time to attend. He, O'Malley and McVie sat side by side in dark blue suits, looking grim.
McVie, admittedly anxious to escape the praise and return to work, said, "Mr Pollin and Peter O'Malley are supposed to be smart businessmen, but if they had asked me I would have taken this job for free."
O'Malley said, "The Washington Capitals are recognizing in the only way we could the outstanding achievement of the Scottish law firm of McNab and McVie."
He hopes the club's various legitimate law firms are as successful in corraling Picard.
"We have a law firm in Montreal, one in Philadelphia and one in Washington," said lawyer O'Malley. "They got me free."