Late last season, when the Flyers were coasting some nine points behind the league-leading Buffalo Sabres and seemed certain to finish with only the third-best record in the NHL, Clarke confronted Shero.
"I don't think we can end up first," Shero said, "so I'll be playing everyone, giving the guys on the bench some experience."
"Screw that," Clarke said. "Forget those guys on the bench. I've talked to them, they don't care. We want to finish first."
"I don't think it's possible," Shero said.
"Give us a chance," Clarke said.
"He really gave me hell," Shero recalls. "So I played the best and they made it. I counted us out until Clarke gave me the courage to do what I wanted to do. On the other hand, when we're way ahead in a game, Clarke'll demand that we break up a line to give the guys on the bench a break. You think Orr or Esposito or any of the other top scorers would take themselves out of an easy game? No, they want to be out there picking up those points. But not Bobby. Heck, he gives away a lot of his points. More than some guys score in an entire season. There's never been one like him in 50 years."
Last season, during a rugged 6-3 Flyer victory over Toronto that was televised nationally in Canada, Clarke was charged with spearing Rod Seiling, his close friend and former Team Canada roommate. Replayed again and again on TV, the incident caused the NHL to be besieged with angry anti-Clarke mail and moved one sportscaster to recommend that the Flyer captain be fined $5,000 and suspended for the season.
Clarke admits, "I speared Rod. I poleaxed him and I cut him close to the eye. Things like that happen in the heat of a game, I'm afraid. I called Rod the next morning and apologized. What else could I do?"
Seiling says, "I like Bobby as a man but I think he carries the aggressiveness a bit far on the ice. I don't think he has to use the stick on people's bodies as much as he does to be effective."
In last year's Stanley Cup finals, the Flyers won the first two games, then dropped two in a row to the Sabres in Buffalo. Clarke was burning. "The Philadelphia locker room was closed for 15 minutes after the fourth game," says one source, "because Bobby was lashing the rest of the Flyers verbally, telling them how stupid it was to get that far and then throw it away. The reason he was telling them that was because you couldn't believe the drinking that went on in the hotel the previous night. When they sent out a line in the fourth game, they'd have one guy who went to bed at 10 o'clock and two guys with hangovers. And the worst part of it was that management was buying a lot of the rounds."