Read an Excerpt
100 Things Flyers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die
By Adam Kimelman
Triumph BooksCopyright © 2010 Adam Kimelman
All rights reserved.
There's no statue of Bob Clarke anywhere in the Delaware Valley. No schools named after him. No giant billboards with his picture along I–95 or any other highway. No radio show or TV commercials. No tell-all autobiography chronicling his life on and off the ice.
And that's exactly how Clarke likes it.
"I guess I'm not real comfortable having the attention directed at me," Clarke said. "Even though I know I played on a great team, was a decent player, and a lot of attention has come my way, I never enjoyed going out of my way to get more attention."
In the pantheon of Philadelphia sports, there might not be any more influential or important sports figure than Bob Clarke. From winning two Stanley Cups as a blood-and-guts leader on and off the ice to becoming an executive who built teams that went to the Stanley Cup Final three times, the conference finals seven times, and were in the playoffs 16 times in 17 full seasons (not counting the 2004–05 lockout or his aborted 2006–07 season), Clarke has earned his spot on the Mount Rushmore of Philadelphia sports.
It's Clarke who helped turn Philadelphia into a full-fledged hockey town and make the Flyers one of the NHL's benchmark franchises. No one outside of Ed Snider has been more dedicated to the orange and black.
"Bob Clarke, more than any other person ... is responsible for the success the Flyers have had through the years," Snider said.
Clarke arrived in Philadelphia in 1969, and for more than 40 years, he's never really left. Even when he did leave, he was never really gone — Clarke always maintained a house in South Jersey while he worked for the Minnesota North Stars and Florida Panthers.
It wasn't supposed to be this way. Clarke didn't possess impressive size, overwhelming speed, or a blistering shot. He came from a town that was remote even for western Canada — the mining town of Flin Flon, Manitoba, hard on the Saskatchewan border, a 12-hour drive north from Winnipeg.
Oh, and he was a diabetic. In the late 1960s, not much was known about the disease — only that it made you too sick to play pro hockey. "As long as I looked after myself, the diabetes wouldn't affect my game," Clarke said. "I was playing in Flin Flon, and I guarantee you the travel and the hockey life up there was a lot tougher than the hockey life in Philadelphia. And the [NHL] travel was a lot easier than it was in Flin Flon. So if I could play junior in Flin Flon and if I was good enough to play in the NHL, it was a lot easier to play in the NHL than it was up there."
The Flyers took him in the second round of the 1969 draft with the 17th pick, and within five seasons the Flyers won the first of back-toback Stanley Cups. In 15 seasons, he had 358 goals, 852 assists, and 1,210 points. He's the club's all-time leading scorer, was league MVP three times, played in eight All-Star games, and was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1987.
"He never gave up," teammate Gary Dornhoefer said. "The fights for the puck, aggressiveness in the corner. He did whatever he had to do to win a hockey game. His attitude and how he played rubbed off on everyone else."
His run of success continued when he moved into the GM office in 1984. Things always seemed more interesting with Clarke in charge, and whether he was changing coaches, feuding with Eric Lindros, or eternally searching for that final piece to a Stanley Cup puzzle, Clarke always had winning in mind.
"Through most of it, we were always competitive, we were always good, we were always trying to do the right things to try and win the Cup," Clarke said.
And when he decided to leave in 2006, he did it because he thought it was for the best of the club.
"He himself decided that he had done a poor job," Snider said the day Clarke quit as GM. "I think that's the measure of a man. I didn't ask him to leave; he decided to leave the position."
Bob Clarke remains a fixture in the Delaware Valley and a fixture with the Flyers as a senior vice president. He's a sounding board for GM Paul Holmgren, does some scouting, and occasionally works with the players on the ice. There have been job offers from other teams that would allow him to run a team again, but he's quite content in his current position.
"I've been here 40 years," Clarke said. "The few years that I was away I always had a home here. ... This is home for me now.
"This is where they'll bury me, I suppose."CHAPTER 2
Walking Together Forever
They were eight words. Eight words that changed a hockey team and sparked them to a championship. And the players who saw those words firsthand still live them today:
Win together today and we walk together forever.
"The significance of it probably never hit home for 10 years," Bob Clarke said. "For me, anyway. Now, 35 years later, you still remember the players, you remember them with a fondness. You consider them a friend even if you haven't seen them in 10 years. It made a special bond among the men on that team. Like he said it would."
The words were scrawled on a chalkboard in the Flyers' locker room at the Spectrum by coach Fred Shero hours before they were to take the ice for the biggest game of their lives — Game 6 of the 1974 Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins. The Flyers, in just their seventh year of existence, were about to do what was believed to be impossible. They were on the precipice of becoming the first expansion team, the first of the Second Six, to win the Holy Grail of hockey.
Shero's memorable words that May 19 afternoon are memorable and fitting. Shero, like his players, was overlooked and underestimated. Many saw the Flyers as the Broad Street Bullies, bloodthirsty animals who did little more than punch the puck into the net. They overlooked the four 30-goal scorers. They looked past Bernie Parent's 1.89 goals-against average and 12 shutouts.
The same goes for Shero. People remember him as The Fog and for his corny sayings. They missed the fact that the man was a visionary.
"He was one of the first to have an assistant coach and the video, breaking things down, doing some studying in Europe," Bill Barber said. "He was a man before his times."
Through his days coaching in the minor leagues, Shero learned how to get inside his players' heads and motivate them to be the best they could be — or better, perhaps, than they thought they could be.
It was Shero who convinced his team that giving the puck to Bobby Orr in the 1974 Finals would work. It was Shero who told his Flyers they could beat the Russians in 1976. And it was Shero who took equal parts brutality and finesse and created a championship equation.
"Freddy Shero was the perfect guy for this bunch of characters," said Keith Allen in Jim Jackson's Walking Together Forever. "He wasn't one of these guys who told them what they could and couldn't do at every turn. Instead, he let them develop their own personality as a team. As a result, the players developed a great deal of respect for him. He was loved by those guys."
Loved, but not always understood. That had to do with the frequent notes that appeared either on the locker room blackboard or in their locker stalls.
Some memorable Shero-isms:
"When you have bacon and eggs for breakfast, the chicken makes a contribution, but the pig makes a commitment."
"Success is not the result of spontaneous combustion. You must first set yourself on fire."
"There are no heroic tales without heroic tails."
And then there was his most memorable one, on that long-ago blackboard in the bowels of the Spectrum — "Win together today and we walk together forever."
"No truer words were ever said," Bob Kelly said.CHAPTER 3
Please Hurt 'Em, Hammer
What do Terry Carkner, Luke Richardson, Keith Acton, Behn Wilson, and Bob Dailey all have in common?
All pulled on an orange and black sweater more times than Dave Schultz.
In just 297 games — one game as a rookie in 1971–72, then four full seasons, 1972–76 — no player in any town in any sport more defines a team than Dave "The Hammer" Schultz defines the Philadelphia Flyers.
"Davey is the player who gave the Broad Street Bullies their personality that the organization carried long after Davey was gone," said Bob Clarke in an interview on the Flyers' website. "We had good players, but that personality was a big part of our organization."
"When they talk about the Flyers winning back-to-back Stanley Cups, they talk about Bob Clarke, Bernie Parent, and I'm right there with them. ... It's usually Clarke, Parent, and Schultz," Schultz said.
Schultz may have played just four seasons in Philadelphia, but what a memorable four seasons they were. The Flyers won a pair of Stanley Cups, went to the Final three straight seasons, and memorably beat the Russian Central Red Army team in 1976.
He led the NHL in penalty minutes three times, including a league single-season record of 472 in 1974–75. His 1,386 penalty minutes rank him fifth on the club's all-time list.
Schultz had 51 goals and 115 points, but he's best remembered for bringing pugilistic excellence to a new level. Schultz made his mark by twice pummeling Chicago's Keith Magnuson, considered the NHL's top tough guy at the time. And some credit his beating of the Rangers' Dale Rolfe in Game 7 of the 1974 semifinals as the spark that pushed the Flyers to the Stanley Cup.
"That took something out of New York," Coach Fred Shero said that night. "They didn't do as much hitting after that."
Schultz did more than pummel the opposition. He hit double-figures in goals twice, including a career-best 20 in 1973–74. He had the primary assist on Bob Clarke's memorable overtime goal to beat the Bruins in Game 2 of the 1974 Stanley Cup Final, and he had two goals against the Sabres in Game 5 of the '75 Final.
But what Schultz will be most remembered for are the brawls. It was Schultz more than anyone else who epitomized the toughness of the Broad Street Bullies.
"It wasn't like we invented [fighting]," Schultz said. "We were trying to protect ourselves from the big, bad Bruins and the St. Louis Blues. We didn't invent it."
But thanks to Schultz, they mastered it. The master, though, didn't come to his craft until well into his hockey career.
When the native of Waldheim, Saskatchewan, was growing up playing junior hockey, "I had two fights in three years," he said. Instead, he was a scorer, producing 35 goals in 59 games with the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Canadian Junior Hockey League when he was 18. The Flyers selected him in the fifth round of the 1969 draft and sent him to the Salem Rebels of the Eastern Hockey League. That's when things started to change.
"Got in a fight in my first game, got in a fight my second game, did well in both games," Schultz said. "Never fought until I was 20 years old [but] three years in the minor leagues was a great training ground for me."
That first year in Salem, Schultz finished with 32 goals and 356 penalty minutes. The following season, he had 14 goals and 382 penalty minutes with the Quebec Aces of the American Hockey League. Then in 1971–72, he had 18 goals and 392 penalty minutes with the AHL Richmond Robins. The following season, he brought his unique style of play to the NHL.
Schultz's time in Philadelphia ended following the 1976 playoffs, when he was dealt to the Los Angeles Kings.
He may have been gone, but the Hammer never will be forgotten. He's lived in the Delaware Valley since 1982, and he's been active at charity events for decades with the Flyers' alumni association. He received the ultimate honor from the club on November 16, 2009, when he was inducted into the team's Hall of Fame.
"Dave Schultz helped define Philadelphia Flyers hockey," Ed Snider said. "He played with a high level of intensity, always proudly defending the orange and black and making it difficult for our opponents. He never backed down and he fought hard every night, wearing his heart on his sleeve. While his temporary home was in the penalty box, we're glad that he will have a permanent home in the Philadelphia Flyers Hall of Fame."CHAPTER 4
Eric Lindros — The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
In the 40-plus year history of the Philadelphia Flyers, no player ever has generated more headlines than Eric Lindros. From his sea-changing arrival to his acrimonious departure, through all the rumors and innuendos, concussions and contract holdouts, every day on the Flyers' beat seemed like another day on Lindros watch.
There was a great deal of good accomplished during Lindros' eight seasons in Philadelphia. He had 290 goals and 369 assists for 659 points in 486 games. He won the 1995 Hart Trophy and finished second in the 1994–95 NHL scoring race with 70 points in just 46 games. He scored at least 40 goals four times and had personal bests of 47 goals and 115 points in 1995–96.
"He came to practice every day, and he was one of the hardest-working players on the ice every day in practice," said Terry Murray, who coached Lindros from 1994–97.
"I always got along great with Eric," said Rod Brind'Amour, a teammate for eight seasons. "I thought he cared, I thought he played hard, and I always supported him."
Lindros' run in the middle of the Legion of Doom line with John LeClair and Mikael Renberg was the high-water mark for his career, as that group led the Flyers to the Eastern Conference Finals in 1995 and the Stanley Cup Final in 1997.
But there always seemed to be off-ice issues swirling around Lindros, like rain clouds in South Florida, that could burst at any time. Whether it was injuries, contract squabbles, or other issues, there always seemed to be some dark cloud following the franchise and its star player.
"The big interference came from his mom and dad," Murray said. "When they came into town and were staying with him for several days at a time, you could always see a different Eric coming to the rink every day. He had different questions, he had a lot of concerns on his mind, and he was a little more distracted. When everybody was away and he was there and just playing hockey, he was a real good player."
Lindros was only 24 when the '97 playoffs ended. But that Cup Final series was as good as it would get during the Lindros Era in Philadelphia.
On March 8, 1998, Lindros suffered the first diagnosed concussion of his NHL career, when Pittsburgh's Darius Kasparaitis caught him with a big hit to the head, an injury that sidelined him for five weeks. Eight months later came concussion No. 2, and while he missed just a few games in the 1998–99 season, that campaign is best remembered for Lindros' near-fatal collapsed lung suffered in Nashville on April 1, 1999.
The 1999–2000 season featured a bizarre six-month span that saw No. 88 suffer four concussions, publicly rip the team and its medical and training staff, and be stripped of the captaincy.
Lindros made two final appearances for the Flyers in Games 6 and 7 of the 2000 Eastern Conference Finals against New Jersey. Lindros was the Flyers' best player in a Game 6 loss, and had a special cheering section.
"I sat there in the press box for Game 6 right next to [GM Bob] Clarke," Gormley said. "I never saw Clarke root harder for somebody than for Lindros that night. He was just, 'Come on Eric, come on Eric.'"
The Flyers lost Game 6 and then lost Lindros early in Game 7 on the now-famous seismic hit by Devils defenseman Scott Stevens. "Once that happened," Gormley said, "everyone knew his career was over. I thought his career as a Flyer was over the second that hit happened."
Gormley was right, as all the bad feelings spilled out in public as Lindros sat out the 2000–01 season while demanding a trade. Lindros first said the only team he would play for was the Toronto Maple Leafs, but Clarke was adamant in saying he would make the best trade for the Flyers.
The saga finally came to an end August 20, 2001, as the Flyers dealt Lindros to the Rangers for defenseman Kim Johnsson, forwards Jan Hlavac and Pavel Brendl, and a draft pick.
Nearly a decade later, Clarke still doesn't understand how things went so wrong.
"Through most of all the messes that went on, I liked Eric, I liked his dad," Clarke said. "I wish it had worked differently. ... I don't know or understand so much that went on. Everybody had the right intent, the results were different."
Excerpted from 100 Things Flyers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die by Adam Kimelman. Copyright © 2010 Adam Kimelman. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books.
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