In his own exit interview with reporters on Monday, deposed Capitals general manager George McPhee had a lot to say. Over the next few posts, we’ll break down his closing remarks on his 17-year career in Washington into several bite-sized pieces for your consumption.
Here’s Part One of McPhee’s farewell news conference:
McPhee: I’d start by saying ‘”fire away” but is that the wrong terminology?
Opening statement [without the assistance of a script]:
I should start and will start by thanking and bestowing my appreciation to Ted [Leonsis] and Dick [Patrick] and their wonderful families and to the whole ownership group and their wonderful families. It's been a great ride and a lot of fun to manage this hockey club. I'd also like to thank all the terrific players we've had who played their guts out for this team over the years and this franchise, for this city. Certainly, our terrific staff upstairs, downstairs and out in the field who made it great to come into work every day.
Our fan base has been phenomenal. We've been selling out for six years here every game, and it'll be another year sold out next year. A really loyal group and passionate group, but the thing that's always struck me about our fan base that's really neat, in the 17 years I've been here, I think really there were only three or four times in all those years that they really came down on this team and booed them. I find that remarkable because there's some teams as we know [that] get it three or four times a year or three or four times a month. Three or four times in 17 years is pretty impressive and I hope it's that way for the next 17 years.
And finally, thank you to the media, believe it or not. You've been really balanced over the years and I remember when I came here, my first press conference was at the Verizon Center and there were three media people there. Tony Kornheiser was there and I'm sure he had to be talked into coming down, but he was nice enough to come. Rachel [Nichols] Alexander was there and the late Dave Fay. So to go from there to where we are now with the incredible media following that we have now for this hockey club, I'm delighted with it. It's become a terrific hockey town.
One of the other things that I remember about that first press conference was it wasn't a long one when you've only got three media people. And I remember walking out to the middle of the floor after everyone was gone and the Verizon Center wasn't complete yet, but I remember looking around and saying, 'Holy smokes, this place is huge.' And then it dawned on me that I've got to fill this place. And we filled it. It has been filled for a long time. I didn't know that we'd ever be able to do that without winning the Cup, but we played so well and had some really fun teams to watch that we've done it. The last piece is the Stanley Cup and I really believe this team is positioned to go back to the Finals sometime in the next three years. It's going to be a really good team going forward.
I felt for five of the last seven years, for five years we really had an opportunity to win a Cup, we were legit. And then I thought the last couple years, we could make the playoffs, but going deep might be hard because I didn't think we were quite deep enough. And I had to use a lot of picks and young players to try and push that group over the edge. When you're going for it, you have to do it. We got a little thin, but going forward, we drafted so well we've got a lot of really good young players coming in and I think that with the good veteran group that we have and these kids coming in, it's really positioned well to do really well. I honestly believe they can win a Cup.
On how it feels to not see that goal to its fruition:
That's the business. Am I disappointed? I was terminated, of course. But it's not the end of the world. I've had worse days in my life. I've got lots to be thankful for and my family's got lots to be thankful for and lots to look forward to. I've told you a number of times, no one's ever told me I have to be a GM for a living. I signed up for this. There are some dark days, but there are a heck of a lot of good ones. It's been a fabulous experience. It's been a fun ride. That's what it's supposed to be. This is sports. We're not trying to feed the world. This is sports. It's supposed to be fun and for the most part it has been.
On if he was expecting to be relieved of his duties:
My instincts are pretty good, I think, at this point. I felt it was coming, but in this job, you're 24 hours away from being fired almost any time. Again, I signed up for it. It doesn't matter whether it's fair or not, it doesn't matter. I refuse to be bitter about anything and I'm not going to look back and I blame no one. I was the manager. I did the best I could. I'm going to look back at all the good things we did and that's how we're going to proceed.