Ron Hextall

Flyers have appropriate (and interesting) postgame meal

Flyers have appropriate (and interesting) postgame meal

When in Buffalo. 

The Flyers kicked off their five-game road trip by beating the Buffalo Sabres, 6-2, on Saturday afternoon. Of course, they celebrated the only way you can in Buffalo: by eating some wings. 

But many fans were wondering if the Flyers were taking a shot at former general manager Ron Hextall, who was rumored to have controlled players' diets and not allow junk food after games (see story)

So were the Flyers subtly taking a shot at their former GM? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, we’re happy to see the team smiling and celebrating after a win!

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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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If not contract situation, could anything be weighing on Ivan Provorov?

If not contract situation, could anything be weighing on Ivan Provorov?

Before watching his first game as general manager, Chuck Fletcher already had his mind made up regarding defenseman Ivan Provorov. 

"I'm convinced he's a very good player,” Fletcher said after his introductory press conference Wednesday. 

Fletcher undoubtedly understands how rare it is to find that anchor on the blue line. As GM of the Wild, he secured Ryan Suter on a 13-year, $98 million contract, locking him up until the age of 39.

Aside from determining Wayne Simmonds' future, another order of business high on Fletcher’s list of priorities is devising the framework of a deal with Provorov’s agent, Mark Gandler of International Sports Advisors. Gandler also represents Capitals defenseman Dimitry Orlov, who signed a six-year, $30 million contract on the day before free agency this past summer.

“I have a good relationship with the agency that represents [Provorov] and I'm sure we'll have some conversations and we'll just see how things go,” Fletcher said. “It's certainly not a project for this week, let's put it that way. I'll reach out to the agent this week, but it's not a project to get anything done right away."

Former GM Ron Hextall had just started to lay out the foundation with Provorov’s entry-level deal expiring at the end of the season. The two sides spoke “probably 10 to 15 times” going back to last summer, Hextall said, but neither side felt comfortable throwing out a number as it pertains to the cap.

“We worked at Provy all summer — three months on and off and we couldn’t come to middle ground," Hextall said. "It was absolutely no animosity."

Fletcher may be better off waiting as long as possible. Provorov has struggled to minimize turnovers in the defensive end of the ice in the first two months of the season, and his current projection of six goals and 28 points would be a sharp drop-off from the league-leading 17 goals among defensemen and 41 points he scored in his sophomore season.

All of which has left the hockey world wondering if these looming negotiations have affected Provorov’s performance on the ice. Both Hextall and Fletcher couldn’t say for certain.   

“I don’t know. That’s a hard one to figure out because you see other guys,” Hextall said. “I don’t think so. Provy is really strong mentally. If I had to pick one guy on our team that I didn’t think would be affected by this, he’d be the first guy."

"I don't know whether that is or not, but it's not unusual to see young players have outside things affect them and affect play,” Fletcher said. “Whether that's true with Ivan, I don't know, but we'll get to know him.”

When I caught up with Provorov earlier this week, he believed his pending (restricted) free agency hadn't had any bearing on his performance.   

“It’s not hard for me,” Provorov said. “I wasn’t really getting involved. I love hockey for everything it brings. When I came back here, I was just happy to be back with the boys and get the season going. Whatever happens, happens — and it happens for a reason. But I love playing here.”

Sources tell me that if anything has bothered Provorov, it has been two-fold: Differing opinions with former assistant coach Gord Murphy, and secondly, not having anyone outside the organization to confide in with his immediate family all living in Russia.

Even with Provorov’s degree of maturity, sometimes it’s easy to forget he’s still just a 21-year-old kid living independently on foreign soil while battling through a rough offseason, which included his recovery from a Grade 3 shoulder separation.   

Provorov will eventually figure out the hockey side, while Fletcher and Provorov’s agent will hammer out the financial side.

It’s all a reminder that it just takes a little bit of time.

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