Bob Clarke recently had a few choice comments about the latest Steve Downie tempest in a teapot and, of course controversy followed.
Clarke said that he "loved" when Downie punched Leafs forward Jason Blake in the face earlier this week, because Blake ran his mouth about Downie when he was suspended for his hit on Ottawa's Dean McAmmond in the preseason.
"Blake was a guy who had no problem going out and saying (Downie) should be suspended for life or suspended for the year. When you say something that stupid, why shouldn't this kid go after him for it?"
"The kid did what every hockey player should do," added Clarke. "If a player like Blake who's been around as long as he has wants to criticize a player then he has to go on the ice with him and suffer the consequences."
Clarke is viewed as a moronic neanderthal by a lot of folks. There have been a lot of comments on the story calling the Flyers a classless organization and garbage. I mean, how could anyone defend a thug like Downie?
I am an unabashed Flyers fan. Outside of my family, the Flyers are my biggest passion. I am also somewhat anti-Downie. I don't doubt his skill and potential, but I also see the possibility that the kid is a ticking time bomb.
I said he deserved a lengthy suspension when he nailed McAmmond. However, I also felt that 20 games was too many, unless the NHL was setting a new standard on head shots-as they trumpeted when announcing the Downie suspension.
Well, in my estimation the NHL in general and Colin Campbell in particular dropped the ball on that. Far too many suspendable offenses have occured with Campbell doing little more than issuing a perfunctory statement.
Clarke, of course, also felt that the McAmmond hit was perfectly legal and not worthy of a suspension, comparing it to those laid by Scott Stevens of the Devils.
However, now that I have digressed, the basis of this essay is to determine Clarke's rational.
I think the above covers the Neanderthal angle.
Now, the words "The Code" get tossed around like a rag doll in a clothes dryer. They are used to defend, vilify, excuse and explain. However, what exactly is "The Code" in today's NHL?
My guess is, in Clarke's eyes, Downie is a teammate who needed his back defended. Downie has been hit with the longest non stick infraction penalty in NHL history-at least prior to Chris Simon's latest-and before he skated a shift in a regular season game.
Subsequent incidents and Campbell's half-assed reaction to them have clearly shown that Downie was unjustly punished for his transgression.
Now we have a punch thrown at the face of Jason Blake, who despite a 40 goal season last year, remains basically a fast guy with a big mouth. What Downie did was certainly punishable, and it was-he got a penalty and a fine, which should have been the end of it.
However, with the Syracuse Bulldogs Syndrome, Downie's jab to Blake's face was a banner headline on tsn.ca's front page. Then Clarke's comments were a banner headline a couple of days later. Somehow, TSN managed to miss the hit from behind from Pavel Kubina that opened up Braydon Coburn.
There was also the 5 minute major assessed to Ryan Hollweg for-yet another-hit from behind. Outside of catching guys from behind, I have trouble understanding exactly what it is Hollweg does for the Rangers. Maybe they need him for the asthma commercial that runs on the MSG Network...anyhow, I digress for the second time.
I suppose it boils down to the amount of passion the Philadelphia Flyers provoke around the NHL. They have worn a black hat since the early 1970's and are both admired by some and despised by many. Understanding that, Clarke's comments are visible in a more reasonable context. I mean let's face it, the pompous Canadiens teams that finally unseated the Flyers felt they had to "save hockey" from the Flyers. Those sentiments die hard. It's also very hard, if not impossible to shake the "us against the world" mentality that those Flyers teams were forced to adopt.
I mean, how many other teams with 3 future Hall of Famers, a solid defense and excellent scoring depth were greeted by papers and other media exhorting the citizens of other NHL cities to lock up their daughters and their sheep, because the animals are in town?
Adding a divisive figure like Downie to that mix gives the maniacal Toronto media more fuel to feed the fire. Does anyone doubt that the suits at TSN were praying for Clarke to live up to "The Code" and leap to Downie's defense? Now comes the tired old refrain of Bully.
Granted, the Flyers have added fuel to the fire themselves. Jesse Boulerice got a deserved 25 game suspension. Downie got a somewhat excessive penalty for a brutal hit. However, Riley Cote got three games for the same hit that earned Andy Sutton a two minute minor. Randy Jones and Scott Hartnell got nailed for 2 games each for hockey plays that went awry.
I'll bet that is close to the way Bob Clarke feels about the situation, and why he simply followed "the Code" and had his teammate's back as he was unfairly pounced upon by the media and fans that have a deep hatred for the team that Clarke remains an icon of.
Anyhow, I now pause to put on my black hat and join my fellow Flyers fans in giving TSN and other knee jerk bashers of the team and player a one fingered salute.