Clarke Strikes Back!

New Philadelphia Flyers beat writer for the Philadelphia Daily News, Ed Moran, began the season with a bang, with a riveting interview with general manager Bob Clarke. In the interview Clarke took many direct shots at journalists in the city, took indirect shots at fans, and carried a profane, confrotational tone.

He quickly addressed the firing of Bill Barber by stating that he believed that the “players overstepped their bounds…your responsibility is to just play hockey.” He also reiterated that he felt a bit responsible for the once linemate’s demise, “things fell apart, Bill [Barber] took the brunt of it, thats unfair.” Later in the inteview he gave his synopsis of the conflict, “What happened last year was it got to a point where the players were against Billy and Billy was against them. This year, right from the start, they’ve all got to get on the same page and keep their mouths shut and just play hockey the way the coaches want them to because there is enough ability to be successful. I think.”

He quickly spent most of the interview blasting the Philadelphia sports writers. He summed up the critical atmosphere in the city: Big [expletive deleted] deal! I don’t have to prove anything to you people. I’ve won in this league. Look at our teams. Every year we’re close to 100 points. The other teams come in and say, “What is the matter with your writers? Why are they all over you? You guys get almost 100 points every year.” He asked the writers: “Do you think they could bear the responsibility of this job? Of course not. Do you think they know what it’s like to sit in this chair and hire people, fire people, trade people? They don’t. So am I supposed to take them serious? No, of course not.”

Clarke took direct strikes against specific members of the media (Daily News Sam Donellon [To be criticized by someone like Sam Donnellon, or someone who couldn’t do this job…Fire me, he says. Fire me. Give him the job.], Inquirer beat writer Tim Pinnacio [I criticized Tim Panaccio once. I told him he was an asshole. I was criticized for 6 months in the newspapers. Ripped for it … and because I criticized a writer, oh man. You think I was criticizing God] and Bill Conlin [Bill Conlin wrote about what Charles Barkley said about him. He was all upset that Charles Barkley said something on TV about him and [fellow Daily News columnist Stan Hochman; on a syndicated radio show in the aftermath of Allen Iverson’s infamous practice news conference in May, Barkley accused both of racism]. Stan Hochman is a really good guy, I really like Stan and I’ve known him for years.

But Barkley criticized (them). Conlin goes and writes a full article. He was insulted that Barkley would say something about him. He’s spent his whole life criticizing people. But someone said something about him. Oh, God. Can’t criticize God].

Clarke did move on to discuss some hockey in the interview. He showed optimism for the upcoming year: “I think we’ve got size, skill, we’ve got youth and speed. We’ve got a combination of everything now. I say that, but nobody can predict. There’s going to be injuries and players aren’t going to have good years.”

He praised Ken Hitch*****: “I would say with Scotty Bowman retiring, Hitch***** is probably the premier coach in the league now…”

Clarke also candidly critqued the moves he made in the offseason: “If I put you in this seat for 2 weeks, you deal with Simon Gagne’s agent, see how good a job you do. When Phoenix calls up and wants to trade for Brian Boucher, let’s see you make the decision. Seriously.

And then you criticize me for Jiri Dopita? You said that I said we were not going to give Dopita away. We got a third-round pick for him and then you said, “Well, Clarke said he wouldn’t give him away but he got nothing for him.” That’s [expletive deleted]. We got a third-round pick for him and possibly a fifth-round pick. There wasn’t one [expletive deleted] team in the league that wanted Dopita. You seen him play last year, what was I supposed to do, get a first-round pick from somebody? You think these other teams are dumb?…There’s no need for that kind of stuff.” He also quickly assesd the free agent market, “At $10 million, [Holik] better be your No. 1 centerman, playing 20-something minutes a game. And he isn’t better than these guys. He just happens to be a free agent. [Bill Guerin is] a great player. You’d love to have him on your team. But we have [Mark] Recchi, LeClair and [Simon] Gagne, all these guys.

While the interview did not open up any new strategies for the Flyers, or give a direction for the future of team, it did give Mr. Clarke a chance to vent before the press and fans. Clarke exposed himself as a petty man, with not a lot of patience for criticism. The only humble point of the interview was when he considered his firing (in 1990) as the right thing for the organization to do because he “was doing a lousy job.” Other than that he seemed to zealously defend his record and put down concerns raised by press and fans alike as personal barbing.

As a Flyers fan I was dissapointed in reading this interview because Clarke did not use it as an opportunity to critique the future of his team or identify points of concern or improvement.

To read the full interview, pick up a copy of the Philadelphia Daily News (9/12) and read the article by Ed Moran on Page 3


Philly Online