A Conversation with Bobby Clarke
The Flyers executive takes on questions about the LA Kings
After all, Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi and Vice President/Assistant General Manager Ron Hextall both came from the Flyers at the time of their hiring in 2006, and later former Flyers head coaches Terry Murray and John Stevens came west as did ex-Philly players Mike Richards, Justin Williams, Simon Gagne, Denis Gauthier, Kyle Calder and Michal Handzus during this time.
Bobby Clarke, after an incredible playing career and highly-successful front office tenure, is as associated with the Philly Flyers as anybody is. He is in the Hockey Hall of Fame and he played his entire 15-year career with the Flyers helping them to two Stanley Cup championships.
An eight-time All-Star and the winner of three NHL MVP awards, Clarke recently spoke to LAKings.com by phone from the City of Brotherly Love, answering these questions.
Even though Los Angeles and Philadelphia are geographically separated by a great distance, how do you view the Kings as you have many personal associations with our club right now?
A: The Kings are the only other team in the league that I like. I have some relationships in Florida and in Dallas because I worked there but Los Angeles is the only team I like and I follow them closely from a distance.
The Flyers are known for their winning culture. How do you describe or define that?
A: That is a good question. Here what we learned early and what I tried to continue and what Paul (Holmgren) tried to continue is that the only reason we are here is to win hockey games. Everything we do is to try and help our team win. That goes from ownership down. Our owner, Ed Snider, was outstanding and he did everything he could possibly do to allow us to do what we could, and we did everything we knew how to try and win hockey games. That becomes a steady diet – it doesn’t mean you are going to win every year and it doesn’t mean you are not going to have bad years – but the idea is that is always about trying to win.
You are revered for your competitive nature. Can you differentiate your desire to compete as a player compared to a role in a front office?
A: The biggest difference of course is that when you lose as a player there is something you can do about it. It is hard when you are a manager. Sometimes you have to watch your team get its (tail) kicked for a few weeks and there is nothing you can do other than to encourage players and to encourage coaches. The manager, the coaches, the players – you all win together and you all lose together so let’s win. You say, ‘Let’s get this thing worked out’ when things do go bad. I don’t think I am any more competitive, though, than anybody else.
Dean Lombardi has been the GM of the Kings now for some six years. What are Dean’s strengths as a “hockey person?”
A: Dean is a top general manager in the league. He is bright, he is very thorough and he took the time to learn to scout and to watch players grow. He has done the things that need to be done to really benefit a general manager. He is well-versed person in hockey.
You have known Ron Hextall a long time. Can you talk about his career path?
A: Hexy should be a GM. He is absolutely qualified. Looking at him and his background his grandfather played and is a Hall of Famer, his dad played and it looks like his son is going to play. There is a huge tradition there with his entire family. I think that Hexy has been trained very well not only here but in Los Angeles. He is ready to take over a club.
Terry Murray just coached in his 1,000th game as an NHL Head Coach. Can you talk about Terry a little bit?
A: Murph I think – no I know – got a raw end of the deal when he was here. It was a mistake on my part to fire him but we have remained friends ever since. We have worked together a lot and he is a top-of-the-line coach.
John Stevens is in his second year as an assistant coach in Los Angeles and he will next year be inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame. John has really paid his dues, hasn’t he?
A: He has paid his dues and he has really learned the right way. He is like Terry Murray. They are solid and thorough. They don’t curse and swear at players and stuff like that. They help players. John did his turn in the American League and he won down there and he did a good job here but things just didn’t seem to work out. But he is ready again. You guys are going to lose some guys soon because John is ready to coach in the NHL again.