Talking Hockey with Flyers Legend Bob Clarke: Fan Interview

The Philadelphia Flyers greatest player was, is and may likely always be Bob Clarke.

As a player, GM and Executive, Clarke has been part of nine Stanley Cup Finals.
Sean O'Brien

The former captain, two-time Stanley Cup champion, general manager and current team executive represents all things hockey in the city of Philadelphia.

Player safety

I recently spoke one-on-one with Clarke about player safety issues. It was great to hear that a passion for the game has remained in his voice.

I asked the Hall of Famer what types of changes he would like to see made to improve player safety.

"Personally, they (the League) have to slow the game down somewhat. They have to put the red line back in.

"They have to allow players to protect themselves. The way it is now, players can skate 200 feet and hit somebody. No one can help them. It's foolish. That's why they have so many concussions," Clarke said.

I asked how a 'video game' mentality had made its way into the League over time.

"I think the League really messed up. They brought in the idea that you (the player) had to take the hit.

"When they added two officials, it wasn't to make the game better. That was done so that a player couldn't get even. They changed all the rules and everything went to suspensions. So, the League took control.

"When the players were allowed to take care of each other, allowed to look after their own safety on the ice, police the game themselves, the game was much safer for the players. Now, it's dangerous out there.

"Who wants to get a concussion? That's something that can affect your whole life."

I asked him how a safer environment could be created now that the culture of the game was different.

"I don't think the culture is different. All you have to do is look at what the cause is and try to do what you can.

"The players are also going to have to do something themselves.

"Look at (Marc) Savard (Boston Bruins), Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins) and (Chris) Pronger (Flyers). They have situations that could affect them for the rest of their lives," Clarke said.

Respect goes both ways

I didn't ask Clarke about Eric Lindros. I also didn't ask Lindros about Clarke in a subsequent conversation. It's never the role of any claimed journalist to play gossip hound, while openly hiding behind a media shield. And yes, I understand that not every professional athlete is a saint. Neither am I.

Clarke was an old school hockey guy. Lindros represented a different generation during the time that he wore that number 88 and the 'C' on his orange and black jersey.

Everyone has learned more about concussions since those days and Lindros' particular situation was one that helped to shed significant light on an important health topic.

I spoke to both men after their Winter Classic Alumni game against the New York Rangers. It was a time for mending fences, not intentionally rubbing old sores.

Clarke, Lindros and every other player treated me with respect. They were very similar to the baseball players who I worked with when I held a front office position in the Philadelphia Phillies minor league system.

Clarke and Lindros

I believe that Clarke had the best intentions of the Flyers organization in mind when he was their general manager and that he will always care about those who are a part of the game.

Lindros was one of the great players of his era and was clearly one of the most dynamic players in Flyers history. He battled through work-related injuries that dramatically affected his life and impacted his career. He is also someone who donated $5 million to the London (Ontario) Health Science Centre on the day that he retired in 2007.

Both people were superb hockey players. They also impressed me as good men. End of story.

Sean was born in the Philadelphia region and has written professionally for over two decades. Read his Sports Blog: Insight and follow him on Twitter @ SeanyOB

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Updated Thursday, Jan 12, 2012