Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Philadelphia, Philadelphia County
Hall of Fame center Bobby Clarke led the Flyers to two Stanley Cups.
Awards: Hockey Hall of Fame; Bill Masterson Memorial Trophy; Bobby Clarke Trophy; Hart Trophy; Selke Trophy; Lester Patrick Award
Bobby Clarke was born in 1949 in Flin Flon, Manitoba, Canada. He began playing hockey at the age of eight. Clarke was diagnosed with diabetes at a young age, but he still continued to pursue his hockey career. Drafted as the number 17 pick in 1969, he played for the Philadelphia Flyers. He led the Flyers to two Stanley Cups and won many awards. After 15 seasons of hockey, Clarke retired and became the general manager of the Philadelphia Flyers and other teams as well. He then retired from his position and currently is the senior vice president of the Philadelphia Flyers.
On August 13, 1949, in Flin Flon, Manitoba, Canada, Bobby Clarke was born. During his childhood, Clarke was always interested in hockey, and at the age of eight, he began playing for the Flin Flon Bombers. Entering his junior year of hockey, at the age of 15, Clarke was diagnosed with diabetes. This was considered a major concern at the time because scouts were questioning how well he would succeed in the National Hockey League (NHL). Clarke did not want his health to count against him. In the book Full Spectrum he says, "I don't want anyone to think I have a bad game, that it's because I'm a diabetic."
By the time he was 20-years-old and ready to play in the NHL, the head coach of the Bombers, Paddy Ginnell, did not want scouts to believe that Clarke did not stand a chance due to his diabetes. He wanted to prove that Clarke was special since he was considered a legend from his back-to-back scoring titles in two seasons with the Bombers. He also had a trophy named after him from the Western Hockey League, the Bobby Clarke Trophy, which is given to the top scorer of the team. Ginnell decided to set up tests at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota to prove that Clarke's current condition would not harm or impact his career as a professional hockey player. Even though these tests were done, no team wanted Clarke in the first round of the 1969 draft. Letting his feelings known, Clarke stated: "I was disappointed to be drafted that late, but that's what happens when other people figure they are experts on something they know nothing about."
Soon after the first round, Philadelphia's General Manager Bud Polie had a good feeling about Clarke and decided to draft him in the second round, making him the 17th pick overall. Clarke proved Polie right because he made the Flyers team in his first training camp. During training camp, Clarke had two seizures, and Frank Lewis, the Flyers trainer and equipment manager, decided to change his diet. It consisted of drinking a bottle of Coca-Cola with three spoons of sugar before a game, a half glass of orange juice with sugar added in between periods, and then a full glass of orange juice after the game. To be safe Lewis had chocolate bars and glucose with him, in case of an emergency was to occur. Clarke eventually developed myopia, which is an optical impairment, but it had no effect on his performance, making him desirable to other teams and harder for the Flyers to let him go.
Starting off his first season as a center in 1969 to 1970, Clarke was given the number 16 and did not miss a game. His season did not go as well as planned, earning only 46 points. During the second season in 1970 to 1971, he showed improvement and brought the Flyers into the number three slot in their division, but they did not make it past the playoffs. Clarke was only age 22 during the 1972 to 1973 season, and he had such an impact on the Flyers that he became the captain of the team. This was a unique situation because during that time he was the youngest player to ever receive the honor of captain. Since he was playing so well and overcame the rough seasons with his diabetes, he was awarded the Bill Masterson Memorial Trophy for his "perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey."
In that same year, Clarke won his first of three Hart Trophies as the league's Most Valuable Player and also for the 104 points he earned, which came from 37 goals and 67 assists. This made him the first player on a Non-Original Six Team (Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Black Hawks, and the New York Rangers) to have more than 100 points. The other two times occurred in the 1974 to 1975 season with 116 points and the 1975 to 1976 season with 119 points. Clarke led the team in points over eight seasons, six consecutively. He had 89 assists in each of the two last seasons, still a Flyers record. It used to be a record for a center (position) until Wayne Gretzky had more assists in 1981. The 1974 season was when his importance was becoming greater and greater, and his teammate Simon Nolet mentioned how "Bobby Clarke mean[t] more to Philadelphia than the Liberty Bell."
Clarke was a great defensive player and became one of the top face-off hockey players, leading him to win the Selke Trophy as the NHL's top defensive forward. Soon after, the head coach of Team Canada, Harry Sinden, named Clarke as one of the first candidates for the Summit Series against the former USSR where he played with other players such as Ron Ellis and Paul Henderson from the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Summit Series of 1972 consisted of Canada's best players against the Soviets' best players. During the eight game series, Clarke was well known for slashing Valeri Kharlamov's ankle during the seventh game. This impacted Kharlamov's ability to play and led to his absence in the eighth game, ending with the Canadians winning the Summit Series. Clarke responded to this situation saying, "It was not something I was really proud of," and later said, "but I honestly can't say I was ashamed to do it." Clarke was known for being a dedicated player and doing whatever it took to win a game.
During the 1970s, Clarke led the Flyers to wins in the Stanley Cup Finals during the 1973 to 1974 season against the Boston Bruins and the 1974 to 1975 season against the Buffalo Sabres. The Flyers have not won a Stanley Cup since then. During the 1975 to 1976 season, the NHL brought back the Soviet team to play another Summit Series but this time, against the NHL teams. The Flyers were the first team to win against the Soviets 4-1, but a strange occurrence took place. Clarke introduced the Soviets to the "Broad Street Bullies" type of violent hockey that the Soviets did not agree with. The Flyers were called "Broad Street Bullies" because they followed their captain (Clarke) and the way he would do anything to win, whether it included being rougher on the ice or breaking the rules. The Soviets ended up leaving the ice as a protest against the methods of the players, making it the only game they lost on their tour.
For the next five years, Clarke was not as productive as he once was, due to injuries that he received over the years. With a broken thumb and knee injury, he had 89 points and only scored 21 goals during the 1977 to 1978 season, making it his least successful since his rookie year. As the seasons went on, Clarke began feeling the effects of playing for so many years and scored fewer goals in his 1978 to 1979 season, during which he made his last appearance in an All-Star game. In that last game, he was captain of the NHL team and played the Soviets in the Challenge Cup where the Soviets won. Before the next season, Clarke was given the title of assistant coach, and because of the rules of the NHL, he had to give up his title of captain while still playing for the Flyers. During the 1980 season, he got back his positive image of hockey and ended up becoming the co-winner of the Lester Patrick Trophy for contributions to hockey in the United States and was named in Hockey Magazine's "Team of the Seventies."
During the 1980 to 1981 season, Clarke's performance was not as good as it used to be, but still remained one of the best in the league. During the next season in 1981 to 1982, Clarke had a broken foot and missed 18 games, but before his injury occurred, during a game, a slap shot from Reggie Leach hit Clarke in the face. People thought he would not be able to finish the game, but Clarke returned to the ice to play, stitched up with blood on his jersey. Even with the injury, Clarke managed to score a goal, marking the 1000th point of his career. During his 1982 to 1983 season, due to better health with insulin, he came back with his best season. His age was being questioned at this time, regarding whether or not he could really pull off playing professional hockey any longer. Former Coach Bob McCammon had doubts but realized that he could play "because [Bobby Clarke and Darryl Sitter] love it. Their office habits, their hours in the gym, everything is geared towards playing the game they love. They make sacrifices." Clarke prevailed and led the Flyers with 85 points and because he improved greatly, he was awarded the best defensive forward and given the Selke trophy once again.
Clarke's last season was the 1983 to 1984 season, and he was captain once more. He scored 17 goals and added 60 points to his total; he became the first Flyers player to score a regular season overtime goal. He ended his Flyers career with 358 goals and 852 assists, for a total of 1,210 points over his career of 1,144 games. Clarke holds many Flyers records as well, ranking first in games, assists, points, playoff games, playoff assists, playoff points, and playoff overtime goals. Clarke was a memorable player and due to his overall success, he played in eight NHL All-Star Games in his career.
Once Clarke retired in 1984, his number 16 jersey did as well and he became the general manager of the Philadelphia Flyers. In 1987, he was inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame, and in the next eight years became the general manager of the Minnesota North Stars, Florida Panthers, and Team Canada. While general manager, he reached the Stanley Cup Finals three times with the Philadelphia Flyers and once with the Minnesota North Stars. Clarke was a great player, but dealt with some controversy as a general manager, especially with Eric Lindros, who was currently playing with the Flyers during the late 1990s and early 2000s. They did not get along very well, and after years of instability in their relationship, Lindros was traded to the New York Rangers. Clarke eventually resigned his position in the 2006 to 2007 season when he accepted the title of Flyers senior vice president.
Anderson, Dave. "The Fly of the Flyers." New York Times 4 May 1975: 231