Short still sweet to Clarke

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:38 AM ET

A drastically shortened season wouldn't tarnish the Stanley Cup playoffs, one prominent NHL general manager thinks. Philadelphia Flyers GM Bob Clarke, who twice hoisted the Cup with Philly in the mid-1970s, would have no trouble with the awarding of the Cup sometime this year, even if only a small portion of the season is saved.

"Everybody knows the full effort that goes into the playoffs (on the part of players)," Clarke told The Toronto Sun yesterday.

"Playoffs are so special and just to not compete would be sad, in my mind. We had a half-season (48 games in the lockout-shortened 1995 season) and it didn't seem to matter then. The best-case scenario would be to get (a new collective bargaining agreement) done now and get the playoffs in."

From a manager's perspective, Clarke would love to see the NHL resurrect itself so the Flyers can start making money again. But the idea of having no season at all is a painful one for Clarke, who put blood and guts into 15-season career with the Flyers and hasn't been much different in a front-office capacity.

Clarke has no trouble saying what he thinks.

"I know (NHL commissioner Gary) Bettman had tried for three or four years to get (NHL Players' Association union boss Bob) Goodenow to help the league, but he wouldn't," Clarke said. "Goodenow pushed Bettman as an enemy, the owners as weak and the managers as dumb. He is not right. Owners invest a lot of money into their teams and they don't want them to be not successful. For him to push 'Don't trust the owners,' it makes me sick."

Clarke also has had a major problem with the criticism Bettman has taken from players at times during the lockout. One incident that stuck in his craw from earlier this week involved Vancouver Canucks captain Markus Naslund, who told the TEAM 1040 radio station in Vancouver on Monday that "I don't like to slam anyone, but obviously Gary has not done a good job during this period."

Said Clarke: "I see Markus Naslund on TV (a station playing a clip) and he is over in Sweden and he is criticizing Gary Bettman. Here is a guy who signed his first three contracts and didn't do anything. He left his (courage) at home in Sweden. He has a great life (financially). I don't understand it. (Criticizing Bettman) causes more damage."

No matter when the NHL resumes, rule changes must occur, Clarke said.

"The biggest problem we have is the goaltenders' equipment," Clarke said.

"We hear trap, trap, trap, but it's not the trap at all. It's just a form of defence. You can beat a defensive system but you can't score when the goalie looks like a wall."


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