This summer, NBC Sports’ social media team is conducting the #NHLGreatest initiative, designed for fans to choose the best player in each franchise’s history. Balloting was conducted through three platforms — Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — with thousands of votes being cast. The results of this initiative will be released throughout the month of August, in conjunction with PHT’s Team of the Day series.
1. Bobby Clarke (994)
2. Bernie Parent (379)
3. Eric Lindros (368)
4. John Leclair (182)
5. Claude Giroux (108)
6. Bill Barber (101)
7. Mark Howe (79)
Fifteen seasons, three Hart Trophies, two Stanley Cups and an induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
That sentence is more than enough to explain why Bobby Clarke was the runaway winner as the greatest Flyer of all time. But it wasn’t just his on-ice exploits that endeared him to the Philly faithful — Clarke’s fearless attitude, gap-toothed grin and near-lifelong dedication to the franchise all contributed to him becoming Mr. Flyer.
Clarke’s essence was summed up during his jersey retirement ceremony in Philadelphia during the 2010-11 season, when former teammate Terry Crisp had this to say (per NHL.com):
“I’m always asked, ‘If you’re going to start a franchise, what player would you like to have?’ Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux? There’s one player in my mind and that’s Bob Clarke. To me, Bob Clarke was the ultimate warrior. When he played, there was only one way to play and that was to win … take no prisoners.
“A lot of guys today go into the locker room and mouth off and don’t back it up. When Clarkie stood up and was talking and preaching at you, he then went out and took it on the ice. If you’re going in a foxhole, you want Bobby Clarke in that hole with you.”
That approach carried over to Clarke’s life as a hockey executive as well. He spent 19 seasons as Flyers GM, leading the team to three Stanley Cup Finals but, perhaps most famously, wildly feuding with the No. 3 name on this list — Eric Lindros — in what became one of the most contentious hockey relationships of the last few decades.
Few players are more identified with their team than Clarke is with the Flyers. Fitting that he tops this list.