Those were grand old days for McKech. He was coached by Leafs legend Turk Broda and would be drafted by the Leafs, the team he cheered for as a young boy. His teammates included Garry Unger, Jim Dorey, and Darryl Edestrand.
Those were days of stability for McKechnie, something he was never afforded such luxury as a professional, as the forward was a well travelled player, never allowed to stay in one place long enough to ever feel like his home was really much of a home.
Soon after being a first-round draft choice of the Leafs, Toronto traded him to Phoenix of the Western League. He played the season with the Roadrunners before being sent to the Minnesota North Stars late in the season.
Over the next 16 seasons McKechnie played for nine teams including two stints with Detroit.
McKech not only bounced around the league, but he played almost exclusively with the worst teams in the NHL in the 1970s and early 1980s - the Stars, the Wings, the California Golden Seals, the Washington Capitals, the Leafs eventually and the Colorado Rockies. Save for a 53 game stint in Boston, where he barely played, McKechnie never played for a winning hockey team.
In fact, in 16 years in the NHL only twice did he get to play in the playoffs. In a total of 15 playoff games, McKech scored 7 goals and 12 points.
Why the short stays? He didn't get along with coach Tom McVie in Washington. The Leafs traded him to Colorado after someone hid a tape of a game that coach Floyd Smith planned to use to show players some of their mistakes.
"It wasn't me," McKechnie said. "But I know who hid it, and it seemed kind of funny at the time. I got blamed for a lot of things because I always tried to stick up for the players. I was basically a journeyman and my greatest disappointment is that while I came close, I didn't quite get to play 1,000 games."
McKechnie was actually a centerman who could do a lot of things well, but nothing great. He was a notably good stickhandler with good size and good on faceoffs, but a lack of foot speed really hurt his game. A lot of people compared McKechnie to Phil Esposito because of his size and reach and lumbering skating, although needless to say that comparison was never fair. It didn't help that he never had a lot of great players surrounding him like Espo did.
He also got himself in trouble with coaches more than a few times because of his love of practical jokes. But he was well liked by his teammates, who unfailingly called him a great guy.
One of the career highlights for McKechnie still came in the spring, even though it was not in the NHL. He competed in the 1977 world championships in Vienna. He scored one goal in 10 games, but was best remembered for being criticized because he did not stand at attention during the playing of the Soviet national anthem.
"We got a bad press that year but people forget that we were just one win away from taking everything," he said. The team was criticized for "shameless" aggressive play all tournament long. McKechnie, normally considered a bit of a pacifist by NHL standards, was particularly liberal with the use of his stick.
McKeck retired from hockey in 1983 and went home to Haliburton and opened his own restaurant and lounge called McKeck's Place.