(Philadelphia, PA, October 22, 2006) - In a major reorganization of the Philadelphia Flyers, Comcast-Spectacor Chairman Ed Snider announced today that Bob Clarke has resigned as general manager, and that Head Coach Ken Hitchcock has been relieved of his duties. Assistant General Manager Paul Holmgren will now serve the team as interim general manager and Flyers Assistant Coach John Stevens was named as the team's new head coach.
"Over the last several weeks it has become clear that it was time to make a change," said Snider. "Bob came to me last week and told me that he had decided to resign. I asked him to take some time and think about it, and in the end we agreed that it was time to make a change. This is not easy for anyone involved, but we have to do what is best for this team.
"Bob Clarke has been the heart and soul of the Flyers for nearly 40 years," said Snider. "Bob was the driving force behind our Stanley Cups as a player, and as president and general manager, he built the Flyers into one of the premier franchises in hockey. I will always think of Bob as the 'Ultimate Flyer' and there is always a position within our organization for Bob Clarke."
"This is by far one of the hardest decisions that I've ever had to make," said Clarke in making the announcement. "I met with Mr. Snider early last week and told him that I felt that it was time to step down from running the team."
"John Stevens has quickly proven that he can coach in the National Hockey League," said Snider. "He worked very closely with many of our younger players when he coached them as Phantoms. We believe that we have a core of great young talent and we think that John is the right guy to coach this team."
During 19 seasons at the helm of the Flyers, Clarke compiled a 714-443-199 record, including 16 playoff appearances, three Eastern Conference Championships, three appearances in the Stanley Cup Finals and eight division titles. As a player, Clarke, the "Ultimate Flyer," led the Flyers to two Stanley Cup Championships in l973-74 and l974-75 and finished his playing career as the Flyers' all-time leading scorer with 1,210 points (358 goals and 852 assists) in 1,144 games, averaging over a point per game for his entire career.
Clarke is the first individual to win The Sporting News' awards as rookie, player and executive. He is a charter member of the Flyers Hall of Fame, as well as member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. He is 38th on the NHL's all-time regular season scoring list entering this season.
During Clarke's playing career, he led the Flyers in scoring eight times; participated in eight NHL All-Star Games, was named to the NHL's First All-Star Team twice (1974-75 and 1975-76) and to the Second Team twice (1972-73 and l973-74); and won the Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL's Most Valuable Player three times (1972-73, 1974-75 and l975-76). Other NHL awards Clarke amassed during his illustrious player career include the Bill Masterton Trophy for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey (1971-72); the Lester Patrick Award for outstanding service to hockey in the United States and the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the NHL's top defensive forward (1982-83). The Philadelphia Sports Writers Association at the 2001 Awards Banquet named him a "Living Legend." He also won the Sportswriters "Good Guy" Award in 1982-83, giving him the first clean sweep of PSA honors (Athlete of the Year in 1974 and Most Courageous Athlete in l980).
Clarke was named the team's president on June 15, 1994 and after nine seasons stepped down as president to focus on the hockey side of the business on June 13, 2003. The Flyers' appearance in the l997 Stanley Cup Finals was the fourth time that Clarke has led a team to the Finals as GM. Prior to rejoining the Flyers (1994), he served as Vice President and General Manager of the Florida Panthers. He was also Vice President and General Manager of the Minnesota North Stars from June 8, l990 through June 20, l992. He was first named general manager of the Flyers on May 15, 1984.
Stevens, 40, was the head coach of the Flyers' American Hockey League affiliate, the Philadelphia Phantoms, for the past six seasons (2000-01 through 2005-06) and led the team to the Calder Cup Championship in 2005. Stevens' career AHL coaching record is 230-181-33-25 in 480 regular season games, not including 11 shootout losses. He has a 29-19 record in 48 career AHL playoff games. He was named assistant coach of the Flyers on June 5, 2006. Stevens was named the second-ever head coach of the Phantoms on June 8, 2000. His 480 games coached and 230 career wins are the most in Phantoms history. He was named an assistant coach for the Phantoms on February 10, 1999, after announcing his retirement from hockey due to an eye injury.
A native of Campbellton, New Brunswick, Stevens played 15 seasons of professional hockey as a defenseman (1984-85 to 1998-99), including 53 career NHL games with the Flyers and Hartford Whalers. Over parts of five seasons (1986-87 and 1987-88 with the Flyers and 1990-91, 1991-92 and 1993-94 with Hartford), Stevens recorded 10 assists and 48 penalty minutes in 53 games. He was a member of three Calder Cup Championship teams as a player (Hershey - 1988, Springfield - 1991 and Philadelphia - 1998) and won the Barry Ashbee Award as the Phantoms' top defenseman for the 1996-97 season. He was named the Phantoms' first-ever captain on October 1, 1996. Stevens was originally drafted by the Flyers in the third round (47th overall) of the 1984 NHL Entry Draft.