Flyers

How Bob Clarke became 'first boss, a longtime mentor' for Chuck Fletcher

How Bob Clarke became 'first boss, a longtime mentor' for Chuck Fletcher

Bob Clarke didn't have much at the time.

As the general manager of the expansion Florida Panthers in 1993, Clarke was forced to build from scratch.

"There's myself and a secretary," he said. "So we had to put together a small group to get started."

The all-time greatest Flyer didn't know Chuck Fletcher, a bright 26-year-old out of Harvard working for Don Meehan, considered the top player agent in the business. 

But Clarke knew Fletcher's father, Cliff Fletcher. Similar to how he admired Keith Allen, the architect of the Flyers' Stanley Cup-winning clubs, Clarke looked up to Cliff Fletcher's benevolence in general managing.

"They were the first two, Keith Allen and Cliff Fletcher, that treated the players and their families better than the other teams," Clarke said Thursday in a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia. "Everybody does that now, but in those days, that wasn't the way it was run. As a player, I knew these things. As a GM, it was what I wanted — the way people were treated was extremely important for me.

"I knew Chuck's background, being raised in hockey and the way his father treated people, and the way he treated me."

So Clarke reached out to Meehan, gathered some information and set up breakfast with Fletcher.

"Very easy man to like, Chuck," Clarke said.

Not long after, Clarke offered Fletcher the assistant general manager position.

"I said, 'I can only give you an opportunity, I want you to work with me and what you do with the opportunity is your own choice,'" Clarke said. "And I made a good decision in hiring Chuck."

Twenty-five years later and Fletcher is now the general manager of the Flyers, brought in to rekindle a winning mentality pillared by Clarke, the franchise's all-time leading scorer and captain of the 1974 and 1975 Cup teams.


Bernie Parent and Bob Clarke in 1975. (AP Images)

At his introductory press conference Wednesday, sitting in front of a Flyers backdrop, Fletcher remembered where he got his start.

"Bob Clarke let me do my first contract in 1993," he said.

"My first boss, a longtime mentor."

Clarke trusted Fletcher back in 1993. He liked his ability to work with others.

"It didn't take very long to recognize — not just his people skills, I mean, lots of people have people skills, but they're still not capable of handling contracts and making decisions and that kind of stuff in the hockey world. He was," Clarke said. "When we brought Ron Hextall in to Philly years and years ago, Paul Holmgren was my assistant and Hexy was next in line. He scouted, he worked his ass off and pretty soon, he was doing some contracts. Not at the top level, not the top players and stuff like that, but dealing with agents and signing some players and developing players. 

"How else will these young guys learn unless you let them? And Hexy was good at it, too. Chuck was real good at it and Hexy was real good at it."


Bob Clarke and Chuck Fletcher. (AP Images/Zack Hill, Philadelphia Flyers)

Fletcher and Clarke spoke to each other Tuesday night before the official commencement of this new era in Flyers hockey.

"When we talked, I said, 'Thanks for coming and I think you'll do a great job with us,'" Clarke, the Flyers' senior vice president, said. "And the Flyers need him. I thanked him and of course he was calling to thank me for supporting him."

The Flyers need Fletcher after firing Hextall last week following four-plus years under his guidance as GM. Upper management is yearning to compete at the top level again, where the Flyers haven't been in sometime, or at least weren't getting there quickly enough. They've been without a playoff series victory since 2012 and have missed the postseason three of the last six years.

Clarke has faith that Fletcher can put the Flyers back in that winning echelon of teams. Comcast Spectacor chairman and CEO Dave Scott was attracted by Fletcher's "deep experience" along with his "easy, open management style, leadership style."

It's what Clarke saw in Fletcher during 1993, the characteristics he loved about Cliff Fletcher as a GM.

"I think we deal with people similarly," Fletcher said of his father. "I hope that's what I learned from him. I think if you talk to most people that worked for my dad, they would say he gave them a role, he valued their input, he treated them with respect."

Clarke believes Fletcher's strengths and personality fit the principles in which founder Ed Snider used as the foundation for the Flyers.

Whomever you work for, managing people is critical to any success. No matter what job it is, when you're the manager, you've got to use your people. You need those skills to do that, to get the best out of your people, to make them feel a part of what you're trying to do and make them feel good about working for the Flyers. That had gotten away a little bit and that wasn't how this organization was built by Mr. Snider and Keith Allen, which had made this organization great.

We've got to do what we can to get up into that level where you can compete honestly with these top teams. … There are lots of really good teams. But you can get there through our young players developing, through trades — whichever method it takes, you've got to try and get there. You can't just tread water. That's not fair to the players who played for you or the people who work for you — you have to try and get better.

Fletcher helped Clarke run the show in 1993-94. Now, Fletcher is in the GM seat and Clarke will watch.

The "longtime mentor" has Fletcher's back, but Clarke won't change. 

Once again, like he did in 1993, he'll trust Fletcher, as will the Flyers.

"I really like Chuck as a man and a person. I'm in Florida and he's working daily and I'm not in any way going to try and stick my nose in anywhere — I won't," Clarke said. "If he calls me, then I'll answer whatever questions he may have. Or if he calls just to socialize, I'll enjoy it. When I come back to Philly, I'll do like I've always done — sit in the office with him and bulls--t.

"If Hexy asked me a question, I would answer it, but I wasn't there to try and pretend I knew more than him and Chuck will be the same. I like talking to those guys, they're involved in the game and stuff.

"But I'm not interfering or trying to pretend I'm some hidden star or something — I'm not. I'm just a fan who happens to be friends with those guys, who likes sitting and bullsh--ting hockey."

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2020 NHL playoff odds: A look into 1st-round series on Day 2

2020 NHL playoff odds: A look into 1st-round series on Day 2

The time has finally arrived — the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs are here and you can just feel the excitement in the air. The top 16 teams are set and ready to push toward the Final. 

Day One already brought the heat, with a five-overtime Blue Jackets and Lightning game, postponement of the Hurricanes and Bruins and pure chaos in the west. 

As the second day of the first round is underway, let’s take a look at the series odds for each matchup facing off for the first time today, per DraftKings: 

Islanders-Capitals 

NY +113 WSH -136 

The Capitals had a rocky start after entering the Toronto bubble, only winning one of the three round robin games — and that one win only decided if they would enter the playoffs as the third or fourth seed. 

The most surprising aspect of the tournament was the lack of production from captain, Alexander Ovechkin. Normally a point machine, Ovechkin didn’t register a single one against the top teams in the east. It’ll be interesting to see how long it takes before he becomes the offense force the whole league knows him for — but if for some reason he still looks off his game — the Islanders have to capitalize on it immediately. 

In the qualifying round, the Islanders simply outplayed the Panthers. Through the four games, the Islanders got on the board a total of 13 times. In a best-of-seven series, a buzzing Islanders team could mean trouble for Braden Holtby. 

After splitting the regular season series at two games a piece, this first round has the potential to be much closer than originally anticipated. 

Coyotes-Avalanche 

ARI +235 COL -286 

The Avalanche were just an overtime goal away from claiming the top seed in the west, but a loss to the Golden Knights locked them in at second. 

Special teams look like they’re going to play a big factor in this series and it largely benefits Colorado. The Avalanche did some impressive numbers on the power play (25%), scoring four different times throughout the round robin. On the other side of things, the Coyotes struggled on the penalty kill (71.4%) — that is the third worst since the NHL returned to play. 

Flyers-Canadiens 

MTL +195 PHL -240

On paper, this series seems pretty much in favor of the Flyers in all aspects of the game — but after watching the Canadiens take down the Penguins, it’s not going to be as easy as many think. The Flyers climbed their way from the fourth seed to the top of the east and rightfully earned the opportunity to face the 12th seed Canadiens. 

The Flyers are riding alongside the success of 21-year-old goaltender, Carter Hart, who hasn’t had much difficulty so far in a playoff setting. If he has the ability to adapt to a seven-game series, they should be in good shape. 

Hart is also about to face one of the most respected (and one of his childhood favorites) in the NHL — Carey Price. Price is not new to the postseason scene by any means, but a goaltender has the ability to steal a game or two in a series. However, if the Flyers come out with the same intensity they had in the round robin, they should still come out on top. 

Canucks-Blues 

VAN +167 STL -200 

The defending Stanley Cup champions are ready to fight and defend their title, but the Canucks won’t be an easy battle at the starting line. 

Essentially a dark horse in the west, the Canucks quietly had a decent qualifying round. After being shutout in the first game against the Wild, the Canucks took the next three and hit the ground running to the first round. After not making the playoffs for the previous four seasons, the Canucks are ready to make some noise. 

The Blues didn’t win a single round robin game, so it’ll be interesting to see how long it takes for them to adapt to a series. Jordan Binnington, the Blues’ go-to goaltender, has had some difficulty adjusting to play, especially when he faced the Golden Knights and allowed six goals. When goaltenders have the potential to steal a game or two in a series, it’s crucial for him to get back to his A-game.  

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Flyers-Canadiens playoff series reminds us of a brawl that changed hockey

Flyers-Canadiens playoff series reminds us of a brawl that changed hockey

“Hey Dad, why is that guy on the ice with no jersey or skates on?” 6-year-old me said while watching the Flyers in Darby, Pennsylvania, in the spring of 1987. That “guy” was the Flyers’ Dave Brown, who came onto the ice with no jersey and in flip-flops to join a brawl before Game 6 of the 1987 Wales Conference Final between the Flyers and Canadiens at the Montreal Forum. 

When you think of Flyers rivals, the Canadiens are not always near the top of the list. But for those fans who go back to the 80s, they’ll always remember one of the most unique and intriguing brawls in the history of professional hockey.

The Flyers weren’t lacking in the toughness department with the likes of Brown, Rick Tocchet and Scott Mellanby, and the Canadiens were always ready for rough stuff with players like Shayne Corson and Chris Nilan, among others. The pregame brawl may have been what sunk the Canadiens, as the Flyers won the series, 4-2. Thirty-three years later, the NHL still hasn’t seen something like what it saw that night in Montreal.  

Unwritten rules in sports are usually associated with baseball but there are some in other sports. In hockey, one of the unwritten rules is to not cross center ice during pregame warmups but the Canadiens had their own ideas. The Habs developed a pregame ritual of shooting the puck in the other team’s net when warmups were wrapping up, and the Flyers seemingly had had enough of it.  As the players made their way to exit the ice after warmups, Ed “Boxcar” Hospodar and backup goaltender Chico Resch waited by the door of the bench. When Corson and Claude Lemieux re-entered the playing surface for their ritual, Boxcar and Resch went right after them, with Hospodar dropping the gloves and pounding Lemieux, while Resch paired off with Corson who had shot the puck.

As word got back to the dressing rooms, more players came back to the ice, some of them only in warmup shirts and hockey shorts, and others (including Brown) not even wearing skates. The lasting image that remains in Flyers lore may be that of Brown, wearing sandals and without a jersey, fighting Canadians tough guy Nilan. Nilan later said that he remembered fighting Brown for eight to 10 minutes and then having to play an entire game, but that he was spent before the game started. The pregame brawl delayed the start of the game, but when the game eventually got underway, the Flyers pulled out the win to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

Hospodar was suspended for the remainder of the playoffs, which included the seven-game Stanley Cup Final series, but there were no other penalties handed out during the brawl. The incident at the Forum, however, changed the sport forever. Following the brawl, rule changes were implemented to severely punish any player who leaves the bench during a fight, effectively ending bench-clearing brawls.

Many would consider this a black mark for the league, which dealt with protests of the violence following the incident. However, for a fan base who grew up on the Broad Street Bullies, the brawl is part of the fabric of the Flyers franchise.  

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