"That old gang of mine" reveled in a final get-together at the White House yesterday, then set off in diverse directions to try to turn Olympic gold into the negotiable variety.
Two members of the United States hockey team, goalie Jim Craig and defenseman Mike Ramsey, seem destined for stardom in the NHL. Craig is expected to join Atlanta soon, while Ramsey, first American ever drafted in the first round, is the property of Buffalo.
Others who should earn starting roles in the NHL include defensemen Bill Baker and Ken Morrow and forwards Mark Johnson, Bob McClanahan and Phil Verchota.
Baker, along with forwards Mark Wells and Mark Pavelich, will join Nova Scotia of the American Hockey League Saturday, beginning the climb up the Montreal ladder. Morrow is the property of the New York Islanders, Johnson of Pittsburgh, McClanahan of Buffalo and Verchota of Minnesota.
Forward Dave Silk will suit up with the New York Rangers for a couple games this weekend and it would not be surprising if other teams tried to capitalize on the Olympic enthusiasm by rushing draftees into uniforms. There are few guarantees of permanent employment among those trainees, however.
"I defy anybody to clearly pick, except for one or two standouts, who will be stars later on," said Washington General Manager Max McNab. "This was just a hell of a team, guys selected with a team effect in mind, to play a unit kinds of hockey.How individual skills and size will stand up in the NHL is a matter of conjecture."
David McNab, Max's son, has scouted the colleges for the Capitals and he was lavish in praise of Johnson, a former college teammate at Wisconsin.
"Mark Johnson ought to go to Pittsburgh right away," David NcNab said. "You can talk about his size (5-foot-9, 160), but it's nothing relative to his ability. He was the key to the whole works. Whenever he played well, everything went together.
"Craig should be just great, Ramsey, Baker, Morrow, they figure to be good ones. Verchota should go right to Minnesota. McClanahan is a fine prospect. Dave Christian, who played defense in the Olympics, will probably be moved back to forward at Winnipeg. Steve Christoff (Minnesota) has been off and on, but he has definite ability."
Besides Verchota and Christoff, the North Stars have the rights to forwards Neal Broten and John Harrington. Others linked to NHL clubs are defenseman Bob Suter, Los Angeles; defenseman Jack O'Callahan, Chicago, and forward Eric Strobel, Buffalo.
The only unattached players include captain Mike Eruzione, previously cut by Colorado; forward Buzz Schneider and goalie Steve Janaszak. Max McNab indicated he was negotiating with one of the trio for a tryout at Hershey.
Coach Herb Brooks said he has received a couple of NHL offers and there should be further contacts before next season begins. Even assistant Craig Patrick, who turned down the coaching job with the Capitals' Port Huron farm to go the Olympic route, figures to latch on to solid employment.
Certainly, the prospects for all are far brighter than in 1960, when the NHL has just six teams and only center Tommy Williams was able to make a lasting impression on the pros. Even Jack McCartan, the sensational goalie, wound up in the minors.
"I had McCartan in San Diego," Max McNab recalled. "He wasn't the greatest goalie I had, but the players played for him. He was the second goalie some years and it never bothered him. He was the ultimate team man. The guys selected by Brooks came from that mold."