A federal appeals court ruled today that Dale McCourt of the Detroit Red Wings must go to the Los Angeles Kings, thus upholding the National Hockey League's reserve clause and reversing a lower-court decision.

McCourt, an outstanding second-year player, was not available for comment but his agent, Jim Hinds of Sudbury, Ontario, said McCourt was disappointed.

"He likes Detroit. The poor kid. We won the first round and they won the second. We'll have to see what happens now," said Hinds.

Red Wing General Manager Ted Lindsay reserved comment. "We have learned of the decision . . . and will reserve any comment on the decision until sometime after the Memorial Day weekend," Lindsay said in a prepared statement.

In a 2-to-1 decision, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals set aside the previous ruling of U.S. District Judge Robert DiMascio of Detroit that held that the NHL reserve clause violated antitrust laws.

"We believe that in holding that the reserve system had not been the subject of good faith, arm's-length bargaining, the trial court failed to recognize that well-established principle that nothing in the labor law compels either party negotiating . . . to yield on its original position," the appeals court said.

McCourt, Detroit's leading scorer as a rookie in 1977-78, had refused to play for Los Angeles after his contract was turned over by the Red Wings. McCourt remained with the Red Wings during the past season.

The Kings won McCourt's contract in artbitration after Rogatien Vachon, a Los Angeles goaltender who became a free agent, signed a $1.9 million contract with the Red Wings.