Centre Dale McCourt was expected to be an NHL superstar after an outstanding amateur career. He ended up having a reasonably productive seven-year NHL career and also excelled in Europe.
The native of Falconbridge, Ontario was a junior superstar in the OHA with three different clubs. During each of his last three years as an amateur, he scored at least 50 goals. McCourt also represented Canada at the 1977 World Junior Championships where he was tournament all-star and led the Hamilton Fincups to the Memorial Cup in 1976. He also won the Stafford Smythe Memorial trophy as Memorial Cup MVP in 1976, was named the Canadian Major Junior player-of-the-year in 1977, and placed on the OHA first all-star team both years.
After being the first overall pick at the 1977 Amateur Draft by the Detroit Red Wings, McCourt impressed with 33 goals. His creativity on a line with Paul Woods and Bill Lochead as well as the power play helped the club reach the playoffs for the first time since 1970. Following this rosy first season, the young forward's energy was taxed during a nasty court battle when he refused to report to the L.A. Kings after being awarded as compensation for Detroit's signing of goalie Rogie Vachon. The matter was resolved and McCourt remained in Detroit but his play never progressed after his solid rookie year.
McCourt was a solid point producer for Detroit but the team never built on its success in 1977-78. The club's absence in the post-season enabled the clever pivot to represent Canada at the 1979 and 1981 World Championships. After recording a career-high 86 points in 1980-81, McCourt's market value was fairly high on the trade market. Early in the 1981-82 season, he and teammate Mike Foligno were the keys to a multi-player deal with the Buffalo Sabres.
The enigmatic centre was placed on a line with Tony McKegney and Alan Haworth but he struggled to gain the confidence of coach Scotty Bowman. He scored three goals when the Sabres came within a game of reaching the semi-finals in 1983 but was released the following October. McCourt was signed as a free agent with the Toronto Maple Leafs and scored 19 goals during the team's failed bid to make the playoffs. In 1984-85, he played his first of seven years with Ambri Piotta of Switzerland. Along the way, McCourt topped the 40-goal mark twice and helped the team earn promotion to the Elite Division before retiring in 1991.