Walt McKechnie departed for Cleveland yesterday, leavind behind kind words for Washington hockey fans and his former Capitals teammates, but unable to mask his bitterness toward the team's management.
"I don't have any idea why they tried to destroy me, but that's what they tried to do," McKechnie said. "I didn't do anything but play poorly. I wish things had turned out better. What Tom McVie and Washington tried to do to me I'll take a long time to forget.
"I've heard quotes through management that I quit. I did not quit on the team. I was kicked off the team by hard-working coach Tom McVie. My teammates know the story and I wish them all the best, but I can't say the same for Washington management."
"I don't know who Tom McVie thinks he is. His statement in the press about me was minor league, no class at all. He could have handled it in a more professional way. He could have said, 'Walt, we want to shake the team up and you're not playing well, so go to the minors for two weeks.'"
McVie ordered McKechnie not to dress for practice Nov. 18 and the veteran center was a paid spectator until Thursday, when he was dealt to the barons for left wing Bob Girard and a second-round 1978 draft choice.
At the time of McKechnie's benching, McVie said that he had talked to the center many times, trying to uncover the reason for his unsatisfactory play, but that McKechnie just "looked at me like I was a jerk."
McKechnie agreed that those conversations probably led to the coach's decision.
"I didn't want to start making excuses," McKechnie said. "I just said, 'I read you.' I didn't want to sit there and whine and moan. He grew to resent me and I grew to resent him. It certainly hurt my play.
"I'm sorry I didn't play better for the fans in Washington. They're good fans and they deserve better. Sixteen games don't make a career or a season. Over the long run, I've played bad in certain stretches and come out of it. I'm going to Cleveland with head high."
Girard will be coming to the Capitals with only shaving kit and skates when he escapes nowbound Buffalo where the Barons played Thursday night.
The Capitals flew to Atlanta last night with an extra player, just in case Girard was unable to make it in time for tonight's 8 o'clock contest with the Flames. However, with the roster at 21, two above the playing limit, left wing Ace Bailey was left at home.
The Capitals won in the Ommi, 6-2, on Oct. 26 for one of their three victories this season. Meanwhile, the Capitals were hoping that goalie Bernie Wolfe would play for Hersey tonight so the parent club could evaluate his work. Wolfe defeated Rochester, 4-2, a week ago in his only appearance on the farm.
Wolfe has declared waivers and can be left in Hershey indefinitely, if the Capitals so desire. But NcNab said Wolfe was still under consideration to make next week's trip to Vancouver and Los Angeles.
"From speaking to my lawyer I'm sure something is going to be worked out, either with another club or with Washington," Wolfe said. "If they sent me out for playing time, it was a bad time to go, because Hersey has been scheduled for so few games. But I'll just sit and wait and see what the story."