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Mark Mulvoy
December 23, 1974
In Philadelphia they are one and the same thing—the champion Flyers—and they are sniffing the lettuce again
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December 23, 1974

Bruisers And Bunny Hoppers

In Philadelphia they are one and the same thing—the champion Flyers—and they are sniffing the lettuce again

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Needless to say, excessive zip is not a hanging offense in Philly, whose citizens will not soon forget that mad Sunday last May when the Flyers beat the Bruins to capture the Stanley Cup. The city celebrated for weeks, the merriment extending to Clarke's neighborhood across the Walt Whitman Bridge in suburban New Jersey. His front lawn was littered with beer cans and liquor bottles for a week, and the crowds became so festive that police details were sent to protect Bobby and his family from the revelers. "We finally had to move out and stay with some friends for a few days," he says.

"Now that we've won the cup," says Clarke, "I think we've all lost a little of the fantastic desire we had last year. But we're also a better hockey team, and we win games on talent now that we won on desire before. We're at a stage where we think we are the best. We know that if we do our thing, we'll beat the other club. Let them worry about us. In the old days we worried about them. Not anymore. We used to paste all those newspaper headlines on the bulletin board and read them out loud to psych ourselves up. There's nothing on the board now." Clarke pauses. "Who cares what Scotty Bowman says about us anymore?" he says. "Does it matter?" Told that Bowman, coach of the Montreal Canadiens, recently compared the abilities of Clarke and Buffalo's Gilbert Perreault—hockey's two best young centers—by saying, "You take Perreault and I'll take Clarke, and I'll beat you," Clarke responded, "Bowman said that? Really? That's a change."

Clarke goes onto the ice for a Flyer practice session. Shero, who is known as The Fog because he seems to live in one, enlivens Flyer workouts by substituting tennis balls for pucks, making the players bunny-hop down the ice—anything to forestall creeping boredom. For this session he concocts a ridiculous three-on-one passing play in which the two wings end up out along the boards.

"You're not doing it right, Clarke," Shero yells after the Clarke line loses the puck without getting a shot. "You're not doing it right!" Shero yells again. Eventually, Clarke has enough.

"Buzz off," Clarke says, "you don't know what you're doing."

"I'm the boss here," Shero growls.

"I don't give a damn," says Clarke. "You're bleeping wrong."

"I know I'm wrong," says Shero after a moment's thought. "I've ruined practice for the last 20 minutes by making you guys do something stupid, but Clarke's the only one here who'll tell me I'm wrong. Just because I'm the coach, it doesn't mean that I know everything."

Clarke laughs. "That's Freddie," he says. "The other day for our pregame meeting he skipped hockey completely and told us about this couple from Russia that had lived on the Main Line for two years and now wanted to go back to Russia. 'Can you imagine that?' he said. 'That just proves there are some people in the world who love misery.' "

Well, it proves they weren't Flyer fans, anyway.

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