Part VI: The Return of Bob Clarke
On June 15, 1994, Bob Clarke left his post as GM of the Florida Panthers to return to Philadelphia and once again become the Flyers General Manager. After his firing by Jay Snider in the summer of 1990, Clarke had become GM of the Minnesota North Stars. Despite having some success in Minnesota, including a surprise trip to the Stanley Cup Finals, Clarke longed to return to Philadelphia. The Flyers also wanted him back in the fold, although not in a major decision making capacity. They hired him as their “Senior Vice President,” which turned out to be a largely ceremonial title, much to Clarke’s dismay. Farwell rarely came to Clarke for any important decisions. Even Clarke’s staunchest critics would admit that he is a man who is no more comfortable taking money for nothing than he is accepting what he deems lazy effort from a player. That was Clarke’s main rationale for leaving Philadelphia to take the Florida job. Read more»
Part V: European Drafting in the Farwell Years
New Flyers General Manager Russ Farwell inherited a mess from Clarke in 1990. The team had a paper-thin farm system and, on the big club, little front forward talent remained, the blueline was shallow and, with Ron Hextall battling ongoing groin injuries, the goaltending was at most adequate. Farwell immediately set about a rebuilding program that he intended to be primarily accomplished at the draft table, relying on his own knowledge of Canadian junior hockey and his strong contacts in North America and overseas. Inge Hammarström was hired to revive the Flyers foundering European scouting program, including their first full-scale forays into Russia. Hammarström and North American scout Bill Dineen became two of Farwell’s most trusted advisers at the draft. Given his short preparation time, Farwell did a marvelous job at the 1990 draft, the first of several good drafts he ran. While the on-ice results were modest during Farwell’s tenure (no playoff appearances), his draft and trade moves assembled much of the nucleus of the Flyer’s revival in the middle and latter part of the 1990s. Read more»
Part IV: The First Clarke Administration
Although Sinisalo, Lindbergh, and Eklund blossomed during Bob Clarke’s first tenure as the Flyers general manager, they were initially drafted and/or signed to the organization while Keith Allen was still the general manager and Clarke was an active player. This was also the case for the vast majority of key North American players from the Keenan/Clarke era Flyers; including draftees Ron Hextall, Brian Propp, Rick Tocchet, Ron Sutter, Peter Zezel, Derek Smith, Lindsay Carson, and enforcer Dave Brown; undrafted rookies such as Tim Kerr and Dave Poulin (signed after playing with the Division One Rögle club in Sweden); and key trade acquisitions such as Mark Howe, Brad McCrimmon, and Brad Marsh. Thus, it was actually Keith Allen, rather than Clarke, who was the primary architect of the Flyers success in the mid-1980s. Clarke’s main contributions to the strong teams of the mid-1980s were the hiring of Keenan and the trades that brought Murray Craven and Kjell Samuelsson to Philly. Read more»
Part III: Ilkka and the Pelles
By the time Miro Dvorak joined the Flyers from Czechoslovakia, the Flyers had already begun to reap their first dividends of European scouting, landing their first players from Scandinavia and Finland. (In hockey terms, “Scandinavian” scouting really means scouting in Sweden because Norway and Denmark (and Iceland) are minor hockey countries. Although often classified as such, Finland is not a Scandinavian country). The early history of Flyers efforts in Finland and Sweden Finland will be recounted separately.
The whole of Flyers history in regard to drafting and/or signing Finnish players remains rather limited even to this day. In the two decades since Swedes and Finns started to be selected regularly in the NHL draft, the Flyers have made only six total entry draft selections from Finland. Moreover, to date, only two Finns have ever worn a Flyers uniform in a regular season or playoff game. For over a decade, the entire history of Finnish Flyers could literally have been summed up in one name: Ilkka Sinisalo.
Part II: Early Inroads in Europe
While it is true that the Flyers early relations with players and officials in the major European hockey countries were often strained and sometimes downright hostile, the organization also has a parallel history of being surprisingly progressive in recognizing that the European continent had a lot to offer the NHL.
Often lost amidst the recounting of the bitter rivalry with the Soviets during the 1970s is the fact that Fred Shero, the Broad Street Bullies era coach of the Flyers, was a dedicated student of Russian hockey. Even during the days when the Iron Curtain was firmly in place, Shero was able to travel to Russia during the offseason to study the Soviet style of play and meet with Tarasov. Shero and Tarasov developed a strong admiration for one another and spent a good deal of time together, comparing notes on their respective hockey philosophies. Shero borrowed ideas on practice methods and game tactics from the Soviets and adapted them to be useful in an NHL setting. For example, Shero brought back from Moscow a three man passing drill which simultaneously utilized three pucks, rather than one.