Just 5’10” and between 175 and 185 during his playing career. A Type 1 diabetic. Despite his incredible numbers in junior with the Flin Flon Bombers, the odds were stacked against Bobby Clarke becoming the leader of one of the roughest and toughest hockey teams to ever play in the National Hockey League.
Yet, he excelled with the Philadelphia Flyers. Bobby Clarke was often among the NHL’s top scorers. He was a Hart Trophy winner three times. Just Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe and Eddie Shore have won the award more often. An easy pick for the Hockey Hall of Fame, Clarke’s presence is still felt in the league all these years later as Philadelphia’s Senior Vice-President of Hockey Operations.
Bobby Clarke – Junior Hockey
Bobby Clarke played junior hockey with the Flin Flon Bombers from 1965-66 to 1968-69. In is first year, he appeared in just four games but came through with four goals and three assists. At the time, the Manitoba team was playing in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL).
For 1966-67, the Bombers moved to the Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL), along with the Brandon Wheat Kings. Flin Flon finished first in the seven team league and were crowned Turnbull Cup champs with a win over Brandon in the finals. The Bombers moved on to play in the Memorial Cup playoffs but fell to the Port Arthur Marrs in the Western Canada semi-finals.
That year, Clarke led the MJHL with 71 goals, 112 assists and 183 points over just 45 regular season games. His lead in points was a massive 39 over second place Juha Widing of the Wheat Kings. Bobby was named Rookie of the Year and was a First Team All-Star centre.
The following season, 1967-68, Flin Flon joined the WCHL (now just WHL), a league that was formed in the previous year. Clarke led the league with 117 assists and 168 points while also scoring 51 goals in 59 games. Teammate Reggie Leach led the league with 87 goals. The duo would, of course, be reunited for more offensive magic in the NHL with the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Bombers finished first in the eleven team league in 1967-68. Flin Flon reached the finals but were knocked out by the Estevan Bruins. Clarke was once again a First Team All-Star at centre.
His final season of junior hockey, 1968-69, once again saw Bobby lead the league in assists and points. Over 58 games, he scored 51 and assisted on 86 for 137 points. He was named most valuable player and again was a First Team All-Stars. Flin Flon once again finished first overall in a league that was reduced to eight teams. They won the championship, beating the Edmonton Oil Kings in the finals.
Bobby Clarke – NHL
Bobby Clarke was a second round pick by the Philadelphia Flyers at the 1969 NHL Amateur Draft, 17th overall. Concerns about his diabetes saw all the other National Hockey League teams pass him over at least once.
Bobby Clarke Collection
Between 1969-70 and 1983-84, Clarke scored 358 and assisted on 852 for 1,210 points over 1,144 regular season NHL games. He also accumulated 1,453 penalty minutes. During his career, he played for just the Flyers.
In 136 Stanley Cup playoff games, Bobby added 119 points on 42 goals and 77 assists. He helped the Flyers to Stanley Cup championships in 1973-74 and 1974-75, beating the Boston Bruins in the 1973-74 finals and the Buffalo Sabres in 1974-75.
Two more times, Clarke and the Flyers played in the finals. In 1975-76, Philadelphia lost to the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs would go on to win three more consecutive after that. When the Montreal dynasty was over, Philadelphia was right back in the finals. The Flyers lost to the New York Islanders in 1979-80. Of course, it was the first of four straight for the Isles.
Over his career, Clarke was a 20 goal scorer nine times and topped 30 goals four times. He reached the 100 point plateau three times. In 1972-73, he finished second in the league with 104 points, behind just Phil Esposito of the Bruins. In 1974-75, his 116 points were good for sixth spot. In 1975-76, he was second again in the race for the Art Ross Trophy with a career best 119 points, behind just Guy Lafleur of the Canadiens.
Twice, Clarke led the NHL in assists. Both times, 1974-75 and 1975-76, Bobby recorded 89. In 1974-75 he shared the lead with Bobby Orr of the Boston Bruins.
As mentioned above, Bobby was a three time winner of the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league’s most valuable player. He was also awarded the Bill Masterton Trophy in 1971-72 in honour of his battle with diabetes. Clarke was a First Team All-Star in 1974-75 and 1975-76. In 1972-73 and 1973-74, he was a Second Team All-Star with Phil Esposito taking First Team honours.
One of the league’s greatest leaders, Bobby was team captain for the Flyers from 1972-73 to 1978-79, replacing Ed Van Impe to become the third captain in team history. He was replaced by Mel Bridgman but took back the ‘C’ from Bill Barber for the 1982-83 and 1983-84 seasons. Dave Poulin took over as captain after Clarke retired.
His captaincy went beyond the NHL. He wore the ‘C’ for Canada at the 1976 Canada Cup. The team won the tournament with a win over Czechoslovakia in the best of three final. Bobby was also captain for Canada at the 1982 IIHF World Championships. That tournament took place in Finland and Canada finished third, behind the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia.
On the international stage, Clarke was also on the 1972 Summit Series team. He played in all eight games against the Soviet Union, scoring two goals and assisting on four. Canada squeaked out a win in the tight series.
Bobby Clarke was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1987, alongside Eddie Giacomin and Jacques Laperriere. Interestingly, Clarke scored his first NHL goal on Giacomin. His number 16 was retired by the Flyers, one of five to be retired by the team.
Bobby Clarke – Staff
His coaching career started while still a player. Bobby Clarke was player / assistant coach for the Flyers from 1979-80 to 1981-82 under head coach Pat Quinn. Quinn was replaced by Bob McCammon with eight games left in the 1981-82 season.
Clarke served as general manager for the Flyers from 1984-85 to 1989-90 then again from 1994-95 to 2006-07. He was ultimately replaced by Paul Holmgren. In between, he spent two years as GM of the Minnesota North Stars, 1990-91 and 1991-92. In 1990-91, the North Stars lost in the Stanley Cup finals to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
In 1993-94, Bobby Clarke became the first general manager of the Florida Panthers. However, after the team’s inaugural season, Clarke headed back north to rejoin the Flyers. Since 2006-07, Bobby has remained Philadelphia’s Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations.
Bobby Clarke – Rookie Card
The Bobby Clarke rookie card appears as number 195 in the 1970-71 O-Pee-Chee NHL hockey card set and is one of the most valuable in the collection. His final card is included in the 1983-84 O-Pee-Chee set as number 262.
Some of his cards, including the 1972-73 and 1973-74 O-Pee-Chee versions erroneously state that Clarke is a right hand shot. In fact, he is a lefty.
His 1974-75 O-Pee-Chee card features a great action shot with Bill Barber and Boston’s Gregg Sheppard making cameo appearances.
Bobby Clarke Career Stats
|1965-66||Flin Flon Bombers||SJHL||4||4||3||7||0|
|1966-67||Flin Flon Bombers||MJHL||45||71||112||183||123|
|1967-68||Flin Flon Bombers||WCHL||59||51||117||168||148|
|1968-69||Flin Flon Bombers||WCHL||58||51||86||137||123|