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Bobby Clarke blames obstruction crackdown, ‘the league’ for concussions

This is downright baffling. Bobby Clarke was anything but a general manager who put his players’ health first during his tenure with the Philadelphia Flyers, but this morning, he suggests to Phillyburbs.com’s Wayne Fish that the NHL has only itself to blame for ridding itself of the hooks, holds and interference which Clarke believes prevented concussions, and worse, Clarke insinuates that the NHL’s two-referee system has taken vigilante justice out of the game to the point that the league is serving as its own—very ineffective—policeman:

“They told the players they had to ‘take the hit,” Clarke said. “The players could no longer get their elbow up or their stick up, they were just supposed to take the hit. At that time, the players could protect each other. They could block, they could hook, they were expected to protect each other. But then I think the two-referee system that Bettman brought in, I don’t think it was brought in to help the game. They were brought in to take away the ability of players to get even with each other. That leads to more reckless hitting and stuff. Because if you do that, the league becomes the judge, jury and executioner.’’

Then came more moves, not all of them favorable to players’ health.

“When the lockout was over, the red line came out and the things the players could do — if you saw someone coming you could hold him up, make him break his stride, that was all taken out of the game,’’ Clarke said. “So what you had was something akin to pond hockey abandon, only with boards and glass to mitigate that feeling of open ice.

“Now you have players of this size, plowing into each other, they can’t protect themselves,’’ Clarke said. “They can’t protect their teammates ... you just have to take it. When the red line came out, it sounded like a great idea. It was supposed to end the trap, but it didn’t. Players are on top of each other so fast. Some of these concussions happen at the red line. You can’t have players skating all over the place, running into each other with no resistance.’’

There are no easy answers, solutions.

“Suspensions are not a deterrent,’’ Clarke said. “Nowadays there are a lot more suspensions but it’s not going to stop the recklessness. When the game was allowed to be played, the players could figure things out, to protect themselves, so there weren’t these injuries. But when the league took over and wanted to control everything, now we have all these concussions.I think there have to be some questions asked by owners now.’’

Continued, and with all due respect, I think Bobby Clarke’s nuts.

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Alzy's avatar

I feel the same way you do George. Does Mr. Clarke actually want me to believe that the only way to have the game be safe again be to reintroduce the red line? Why not teach the players that it’s NOT ok to elbow/shoulder someone in the head just for the helluva it? When did it become acceptable to ruin someone else’s career because you could check them in the head? I thought the purpose of a body check was to separate a player from the puck, not concuss them into next year? Maybe someday the NHL/NHLPA will wise up , but hopefully it’s not at the expense of Sidney Crosby however.

Posted by Alzy from Cambridge, Ontario, Canada on 12/18/11 at 07:21 AM ET

Mr. Fnytelhatt's avatar

...so there weren’t these injuries. But when the league took over and wanted to control everything, now we have all these concussions.

I tried reading this out aloud, but my head was so filled up with The Stupid I passed out and hurt myself against a chair (possibly puncturing a lung).

Posted by Mr. Fnytelhatt on 12/18/11 at 08:27 AM ET

Evilpens's avatar

Boobie Clarke is a Moron & that is why the Flyers still have problems because Ed Snider brought him back in an “Advisory” role.

Advisory role my ASS Snider thinks Clarke is God his has a lot of pull in that OrganIzation

Posted by Evilpens on 12/18/11 at 12:32 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

Also Calarke thinks the NHL ought to let players play the Gutless, Spineless, Nutless Way he played !

Cheapshot someone, Slash someone & then Hide behind the Goon Squad they had

Posted by Evilpens on 12/18/11 at 01:02 PM ET


These comments are funny. He’s absolutely right. How often did these concussions happen before the rule changes? Bettman has *#$%@& up the game in a plethora of ways, and this is just another one. There’s no doubt that the instigator penalty has allowed punks like Cooke, Kaleta, Hollweg, Tootoo (etc) run rampant throwing dirty hits without repercussion. No one has to answer the bell anymore because if someone goes after them, it’s an automatic 2 and a 10. Ryan Miller basically made the same comment about it earlier this year.

As far as the clutching and grabbing, he once again is correct. It’s common sense. Taking away the red line speeds up the game as it’s now open to two line passes. Removing obstruction stops players from interfering with other players thus allowing them to gain more speed before the contact. It also usually means the player receiving the hit is travelling faster, thus the impact is even worse for him. And honestly, it’s pretty apparent that Shanny and Colon Campbell are failing in their approach to these suspensions. Since Shanaban and Colon have been levying suspensions like candy, has the amount of dirty hits gone done? Obviously not…

It’s pretty funny to think that most people just automatically assume that Bettman (who was a basketball guy) knows more about the game than anyone.  Clarke’s observations are pretty astute. He was a terrible general manager, but also he was an outstanding player. To think that the league couldn’t *#$%@& something up and that you all would know better is pretty foolish. Besides, I’m sure all you Pittsburgh and Washington fans weren’t even watching pre-2006. The pens were bankrupt twice because of it’s “loyal” fanbase, and the Capitals had a dead and empty arena for decades, until Ovie came into the league.

Posted by Steve-Dave on 12/18/11 at 01:18 PM ET

Baroque's avatar

In the past, players just “got their bell rung” and as soon as they could skate without falling over they were sent right back out. There weren’t necessarily fewer concussions, but they were not even recognized, ignored and played through if they were, and the future consequences were unknown. If a retired player got a little mentally “fuzzy” in retirement, it was likely written off as the aftereffects of his drinking too much when he was young and stupid, or he was just getting old, or something similar - not post-concussion syndrome, as it might be recognized today. Also, when a player’s job depended on being out on the ice, he wouldn’t say to the coach that he didn’t feel quite “right.”

Now there is an awareness of what the symptoms of a concussion are, how serious the consequences are if a player continues to play through it, and there isn’t the sense as much that a player is soft or slacking off if he doesn’t play when concussed. Likely there are more concussions now, just from the speed of the game, but more of the increase is in increased awareness and recognition. Stars, in particular, also don’t have to worry about losing their jobs if they can’t play for a few months while their brain heals.

Regarding the hard hits that blast an opponent into next week - those make the highlights the same way hard hit do in football. It took years for people seeing those and imitating them when they played themselves and getting attention and praise for them as NHL players doing the same thing for hits like that to come into hockey, and it will take years to fully get them back out. Suspensions and education can accelerate the process, but it takes time.

Fighting won’t help. No statistical measure has shown a strong positive correlation between fighting and winning, and all fighting does is provide a brain-damaging sideshow during a pause in the action. Some people love it, some people hate it, but it is completely irrelevant to the actual playing of the game of hockey.

And not every Capitals fan or Penguins fan is an Ovechkin or Crosby fanboy in his 20’s. Some of them have been around for a few decades - and even if they are new fans, it doesn’t mean that they are incapable of making a logical argument. It should be judged on the basis of the strength of their logic, not on what team they cheer for. smile

Posted by Baroque from Michigan on 12/18/11 at 02:02 PM ET


The dinosaur roars one more time. These neanderthals think if you just allow a thug to club someone over the head now and then the game will fix itself. If you can’t break his skull you break a stars ankle, all good fun in the name of winning. Bobby Clarke is what ruined the game and forced the cleanup after the lockout, his brand of hockey is going bye bye.  These guys long for the days when you over paid for “heart” guys who couldn’t skate and you attacked star players by physically destroying them. Good riddance!

Posted by timbits on 12/18/11 at 04:07 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

Douchebag Steve-Dave I have been watching & Going to Pens games Longer than you have been Stealing Oxygen on this Planet! Little one go back to milk & Cookies

Posted by Evilpens on 12/18/11 at 04:46 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

They went Bankrupt because of INCOMPETENT Ownership!  Not the Fans fault that Howard Baldwin sold every avenue of revenue way to continue the House of Cards, He had 2 different set of books, The Real ones & the ones he showed potential investors

Posted by Evilpens on 12/18/11 at 04:49 PM ET

Down River Dan's avatar

Not usually a fan of anything that comes out of mr. clarke’s pie-hole, but I think some of what he says has merit.

However, I’m not sure there is any simple answer to this problem. One thing for sure would be to get rid of the football shoulder pads and plastic elbow pads immediately!

That said, the game is played at a much faster pace, with much bigger players. I recently watched some old games from the 70’s and early 80’s. It was as if I was watching a different sport altogether. Speed of players overall was laughable, and there were far fewer “big” hits in the open ice area.

Watch a game from today and even a “passive” team like the wings and there are serious checks on every shift by even non aggressive type players.

The powers that be said getting rid of the clutch and grab stuff along with the removal of the 2 line pass would open up the game and increase scoring. I’m not sure the game is any more exciting with the crackdown on hooking and holding, and I know for sure that scoring has not increased substantially if at all.

Posted by Down River Dan on 12/18/11 at 05:01 PM ET


The source here is being brought down more than any of what he is saying.  The game is faster now and it is due to rules changes.  People are focused too much on conceptual concussions instead of the real reasons players are out right now. Some are clean hits, some are accidental.  I have no problem with bringing back the red line.  It’d be a good test.

Posted by Jamie on 12/18/11 at 07:39 PM ET

Primis's avatar

There’s maybe 25% truth in what Clarke is saying.  Guys that are about to be hit *DO* need to be able to defend themselves.

However as usual, Clarke is too dumb to see what part of it is truth, and what part of it is just him talking out his a**.

Posted by Primis on 12/18/11 at 07:42 PM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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