Quick Hits: August 13, 2019
1) Hockey of Hall of Fame inductee and NHL's 100 Greatest Players honoree Bob Clarke turns 70 years old today. He was born in Flin Flon, Manitoba, on this day in 1949. In past blogs on Clarke's birthday, I have tried to find words to articulate what Clarke and his playing career meant to the generation of us who grew up in Philadelphia (or elsewhere as Flyers fans) during the 1970s. In the immortal words of Fred Shero, the Flyers captain "was a dream dressed in work clothes."
This year, in honor of Clarke's milestone birthday, I decided to talk about the present rather than the past. For a number of recent years, Clarkie took a step back to enjoy his grandchildren and spend much of the year in Florida. He still rooted for the Flyers and was aware of what was going on with the team, but he was only around periodically or when specifically called upon. Part of the reason why Dean Lombardi stayed on after the dismissal of Ron Hextall as general manager is that Lombardi is also close with Clarke.
The same thing goes for Chuck Fletcher. To this day, he and Clarke enjoy a very strong relationship (one that dates back a quarter century to Clarke hiring Fletcher after his Harvard graduation to work for the Florida Panthers). In the months since Fletcher took over as general manager, Clarke has become significantly more involved than he was during the Ron Hextall era. Officially, the Flyers senior vice president is part of the advisory group to Comcast-Spectacor CEO David Scott. Most of Clarke's interactions, however, are one-on-one with Fletcher whenever Fletcher seeks his advice. The communication chain is closer to how things were under Paul Holmgren than under Hexy, although nothing will ever be quite as special as the almost father-and-son type of bond that Clarke had with the late Ed Snider.
Overall, those who know Bob the best say that he is in a content spot in his life. He's happy that he's no longer the one in front of the cameras, no longer the one expected to speak. He still enjoys dealing with the fans and is receptive to the media, but can do it on his own terms. He still enjoys going back to Flin Flon, too. However, his biggest enjoyment -- even over and above the Flyers -- is being a grandfather.
Paul Holmgren tells a funny story about Clarkie from Bob's latter GM years. Clarkie preferred to delegate the amateur scouting chores to his staff, with Homer as assistant GM being asked to take the trips. One year, during a break in the NHL schedule, Holmgren and a couple Flyers scouts took a trip to see a WHL game in Moose Jaw. Since there was no schedule conflict, Clarke momentarily pondered whether to make the trip then decided against it.
"Homer," Clarke said by way of explanation in his distinctively laconic Manitoban way, "Ya can't get a [bleepin'] tan in Moose Jaw."
Fast forward to the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline. After the deadline passed, a number of people on the Flyers hockey ops side -- Fletcher, assistant general manager Brent Flahr, Clarke, Dave Brown, Al Hill and Bill Barber -- left the Skate Zone to go out for dinner and a beer or two at a restaurant near the Skate Zone. Nobody bothered them. I sat at a nearby table with my son, Benjamin. A couple of times, I looked over at my childhood sports hero. A tanned Clarke was laughing and smiling with his colleagues. It was nice to see.
2) Speaking of milestone birthdays, today is Flyers goaltender Carter Hart's 21st birthday. He was born in Sherwood Park, Alberta on this day in 1998. In case you missed it last blog, I am reposting a video I saw on Facebook this past weekend: As a combined mental concentration and eye-hand exercise, Hart demonstrates how he can juggle three balls and read the text on a slide simultaneously without losing focus on either task. He is working up toward juggling five balls.
3) Tomorrow, at Simons Ice Rink in Philadelphia (7200 Woolston Ave.), Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere will come out to talk to Snider Hockey kids about off-ice inspirations and life lessons during a special Q&A session. A big part of the mission statement of Snider Hockey is to promote character development, life skills, fitness, nutrition, and academics. Ghost will discuss his own inspirations in these and other areas.
4) Flyers Alumni member Chris Pronger and his wife Lauren have jointly created a website called Well Inspired Travels
; a site centered around wellness, fitness and travel.
In a press release, Chris Pronger said, "This has always been a passion project of Lauren's and being a professional athlete, I have always been focused on physical well-being. After several injuries throughout my career, I also became intrigued by the importance of mental well-being."
Chris Pronger, of course, prematurely had to retire from hockey after a serious eye injury and the devastating effects of post-concussion syndrome. Much of the initiative for the website was taken by Lauren, and she will manage its content. For those interested, readers will also have the opportunity to follow the Prongers' journeys on their Instagram page