Former Flyers player, now VP, believes Blake deserved punch

Updated: January 9, 2008, 7:21 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Bob Clarke, not known for shying away from a fight or hiding his thoughts, had plenty to say about Philadelphia rookie Steve Downie's sucker punch of a Toronto Maple Leafs player last week.

In essence, Clarke enjoyed it.

The kid did what every hockey player should do. If a player like [Jason] 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.

-- Bob Clarke

"When he went after [Jason] Blake, I loved it," Clarke told The Sports Network of Canada.

Clarke, a Flyers icon from the Broad Street Bullies days in the 1970s, is now the senior vice president of the team. He was speaking on TSN's "Off the Record" show when he addressed Saturday night's incident, where Downie punched Blake in the left eye as Blake was being held back by an official during a scuffle.

Blake's eye swelled shut, but was not seriously injured otherwise. Downie was ejected, and was issued a warning -- but not suspended -- by league disciplinarian Colin Campbell.

It was only Downie's fourth NHL game, after just completing a 20-game suspension for a blind-side hit to the head of Ottawa's Dean McAmmond in September.

Clarke said Blake deserved Downie's punch for saying Downie should have been suspended for more than 20 games.

"Blake was a guy who had no problem going out and saying [Downie] should be suspended for life or suspended for the year," Clarke said. "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. 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."

After the Leafs' skate Wednesday morning in Anaheim, Blake brushed aside Clarke's comments. "I don't care who it is, but in the overall picture, there's no place for [those hits]," Blake told the Toronto Globe and Mail. "You don't want injuries that will keep you out for the whole season. I'm just thankful there was no structural damage."

Maple Leafs coach Paul Maurice shrugged it off, believing Clarke was sticking up for one of his players. "That's what it's all about," Maurice said. "Whether you're a player or in the office, you take care of your own."

This season alone, five Flyers have been punished for violent on-ice acts. Besides Downie's 20-game suspension, Jesse Boulerice was suspended 25 games for a cross-check to the head of Vancouver Canucks center Ryan Kesler; Randy Jones got two games for a hit from behind on Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron (who has not played since the Oct. 27 hit); Scott Hartnell got two games for hitting Bruins defenseman Andrew Alberts' head into the boards when Alberts was on his knees; and Riley Cote's three-game suspension for his hit to the head of Dallas Stars defenseman Matt Niskanen.

Clarke, who selected Downie 29th overall in the 2005 draft, also defended him for his hit on McAmmond.

"My own personal feelings is that Colin Campbell overreacted," he said, regarding the 20-game suspension.

"The hit that Downie threw on McAmmond was not a whole lot different than the hits we all admired, including myself -- that Scott Stevens used to do on open ice. He hit lots of heads and hurt lots of people and we said it was great. What Downie did was, it looked like Colin Campbell took it personally, [thinking], 'I told these players they couldn't do that and he did so I'm going to get him.' To suspend him for 20 games is ridiculous. McAmmond was a veteran player who was skating and watching his pass and got nailed. Sorry for it, too bad he got hurt but it was his own fault as much as it was Downie's."

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