Owner Abe Pollin's decision to hire Bryan Murray as coach of the Washington Capitals received support from an unexpected source yesterday. Don Cherry, the other leading candidate and the man many disgruntled fans wanted, said Pollin made a wise decision in hiring Murray.
"I personally think it was a wise decision on Mr. Pollin's part," Cherry said by phone from his home in Englewood, Colo. "He (Murray) knew the personnel and I didn't. He knew the draft picks, the young kids. To walk in cold turkey it would have taken me a couple of games to get to know them. And I see the kid hasn't wasted any time getting the club going."
After a 1-12 start under Gary Green and a 13th defeat under Roger Crozier, the Capitals are 1-1-1 for Murray. The victory came Saturday in Hartford as goalie Dave Parro made 44 saves in the 4-0 win.
"I've seen Parro play and I like him," Cherry said. "You've got to get that good goal tending, the kind I got from (Gerry) Cheevers in Boston. He'd win games for us we had no business winning. Murray should kiss Parro the way I kissed Cheevers -- on the lips."
Cherry said he had a "real good two-hour talk at Mr. Pollin's home. I explained what I felt and he explained what he felt. I told him I was only interested in having a situation with the Billy Martin aspect of the game, and I don't think they were quite ready for that.
"It's a good idea, though, and I think that's the way it's going now. You have assistants to help run each phase for you, but that way you don't have one guy going one way and another another way."
Although Cherry sent two teams to the Stanley Cup final and two others to the semifinals while coaching in Boston, he was continually at odds with General Manager Harry Sinden over the direction to take with personnel.
Cherry said the only unpleasant part of the Washington negotiations was reading a wire-service story that indicated Pollin had passed him over because of a previous dispute.
"The one thing I wanted to get away from, if you will, is that I was turned down," Cherry said. "My demands were not the same as the kid's. They were pretty stiff. When they first contacted me, I first said I appreciated the call, but I wasn't really interested, because I'm finally in a solid position financially with the TV and the speaking engagements.
"But Peter O'Malley (a member of the team's board of directors) persuaded me to come in and talk about it. He's my kind of guy and we got along like two peas in a pod. Then, after the thing's over, I read a wire story that said I had a dispute with Abe Pollin in the past. Heck, I'd never even met the man before."
To the fans who chanted "We want Cherry" at Capital Centre, Cherry said, "That's what they were shouting in Denver the night I did the TV of a Toronto game there. And in Calgary, there was a story that the players wanted me to be the Flames' coach. It seems wherever I go, everybody wants me but the owners.
"I really do hope the Capitals get things going. From what I recall going in there, that could be a great franchise. They'd better remember, though, that it's not enough to win these days. You have to put on entertaining hockey."
Meanwhile, Crozier, the Capitals' acting general manager, was negotiating with Roland Stoltz' agent and his former Swedish team, Skelleftea, so that Stoltz can play in Sweden. Stoltz was placed on the suspended list when he refused to report to Hershey and went home instead.
"He said he had been considering going home for a month before the Hershey move came up," Crozier said. "He said the money was no motivation here. He was homesick -- period. He cited three problems -- the difference playing here, the fact he couldn't make the adjustment culturally and that he was not playing up to his potential because of those things." "He said he was gung-ho at the start, but he was tiring," said Yvon Labre, the assistant coach. "He wasn't used to practicing or playing every day. In Sweden, they play fewer games and get a few days off. But he said he was glad he came and got the chance to play in the NHL."