After the locker-room scene, says the source, Clarke cornered Snider, who was heard mumbling, "You're right, Bobby. You're right. It won't happen again. You're right. I apologize."
The Flyers won the next two games and their second Stanley Cup.
It is not incidental that each of these interludes has a common denominator: victory for Clarke's side. But does the long end of the score justify the short end of the stick? "We used to sit around and talk about that," says Bill Clement. Washington's ex-captain, recently traded to Atlanta, spent four years with Clarke at Philadelphia. "The violent stuff was almost never premeditated. Bobby would say, I just want to win so badly.' "
Clarke is not of the roundhouse-right school. He leaves that chore to such mop-up specialists as Dave (the Hammer) Schultz, Bob (the Hound) Kelly, Andre (Moose) Dupont and Don (Big Bird) Saleski. Their mission is clear. "Our leader must be protected at all times," says Schultz ominously.
Out there on the frozen playgrounds of the NHL that kind of bullyboy support can make a little guy feel downright feisty. " Clarke's no different than any other player," says Maple Leaf Center Darryl Sittler. "If a player knows that when he fights he fights alone, then he's not too eager to start anything. But when he knows that the entire team is willing to fight for him, then he can try a lot more things that could cause trouble."
The result, says Sittler, is that "more than any other player in the league Clarke battles you all the time. He does anything he can to make you think of something other than playing your game. A little whack here, a little jab there. If he can't get you upset, he just steps up the nonsense until he does, and some of it is pretty tough. You don't mind guys working to stop you but Clarke does go a bit far. Cripes, he wants to win so badly that he'll do just about anything."
Not just any old time, though. Marc Boileau, former coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins, says, " Clarke takes what he can get. He'll elbow you and hook you, but he gets away with it because he knows when to stop. When he hooks you, for example, he does it with a great sense of timing. If somebody's going to beat him, he gets that stick in there. But he always manages to get it away before the official calls it. He's a cute one, all right." Los Angeles Defense-man Neil Komadoski relates, "I remember how he suckered me into a penalty when I was a rookie with the Kings. He brushed me across the face with his glove and I crosschecked him for the penalty. That's something a rookie has to learn, when to retaliate at the right time."
Clarke is a hummingbird among hawks. "He's everywhere he's supposed to be. Yet he's everywhere you don't expect him to be," says the Atlanta Flames' Bill Flett. Clarke never leaves the ice without trying to skate in front of an opponent. He dances box steps in front of a rival's net to obstruct the goalie's view of a shot. He kills penalties, works the power play, forechecks with deadly abandon and steals face-offs with the touch and trickery of a pickpocket. And when he centers for linemates Bill Barber and Reggie Leach, his only possible fault, says Buffalo Coach Floyd Smith, is "not shooting the puck enough himself, being too unselfish."
"With Bobby," says Leach, who scored 45 goals last season after joining the Flyers in a trade recommended by Clarke, "I know that all I have to do is skate to an open spot on the ice and I'll get the puck. Usually right on my stick. From there, it's just a matter of pulling the trigger."
But what mainly fires the Flyers, what disrupts rivals, stirs controversies and wins Stanley Cups is Clarke's cussed, dogged, clawing, nonstop drive. He is just plain too annoying to be around. Even when he is not in nagging pursuit, the thought that he might be makes for a lot of looking over the shoulder. As Shero astutely points out, "When you're looking behind you, you don't know what's in front of you. You can fall down a lot that way."