Bobby Clarke and Pete Mahovlich are part of the ’72 Summit Series Tour in various Canadian cities, and the two hockey legends – whose resumes speak for themselves – were part of an excellent 40-minute in-studio discussion on Montreal’s TSN 690 Thursday afternoon.
With Scott Gomez having announced his retirement this week, Mahovlich – a longtime scout after his playing career – was asked for his perspective on if he saw anything non-money-related that would have caused the forward ‘to lose his skill set, seemingly as quickly as he did.’
“What I thought happened to Gomez – and I think it happened to Bobby Holik and a couple others who played and were successful in that Jersey system under Jacques Lemaire – once they left that total team play, their own play slipped. They would have been much better staying right where they were in New Jersey under the game style that fit their style of game. They got free and then they weren’t very good after that.”
“I agree with that,” said Clarke. “And I also agree with the fact that when players move on to a salary structure that’s not comfortable to them, then even though they’re playing the same, the expectations of the management and of the fans is higher. And then pressure starts to mount. And even though they are still performing at a certain level, the expectations don’t meet that level. Their games start to deteriorate, and if they’ve got any pride at all, it affects people.
“It’s easy to say, ‘Well, I’m making all of this money.’ That’s why we see players continually get bought out. Why? Because they’re not meeting the expectations of that salary. It’s not the expectations of being a decent hockey player, or a good hockey player. It happens numerous times where careers are sidetracked because of a good paycheck.”
“We had him in Florida for awhile,” noted Mahovlich. “It’s the same thing. I mean, he worked hard. He played hard. Still good speed. But whatever he did, there was no end result to it. Consequently – you have to have results.”
The discussion then pivoted to Jaromir Jagr, still playing in the NHL at the age of 44.
“I thought he was done years ago,” admitted Clarke. “He went from Pittsburgh to Washington, and he just laid an egg in Washington. He didn’t even try. And then he bounced over to the Rangers. He wasn’t very good. That’s why the Rangers let him go obviously. Then he goes to Russia, and he comes back and now he’s a productive player again. It’s hard to believe.”
“He’s been very productive for us on the ice,” said Mahovlich. “Which is kind of funny because I think everybody might think he’s a selfish player in a lot of respects. But what he’s done is his work ethic has transformed a couple of other players. He’s playing with Barkov, who I don’t think needed much help to be motivated to be a great hockey player. He’s a great hockey player. He thinks the game. He’s a big body. He’s very smart. But what he’s done to transform Huberdeau and take Huberdeau into another level – we haven’t seen the best of him yet.”
Another compelling portion of the lengthy conversation centered around Eric Lindros, who was voted into the 2016 induction class of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Does this news please Clarke?
“Yeah, he deserves it,” said Clarke. “It’s an interesting thing. There’s no standards to get into our Hall of Fame; but he was MVP in the league, so that should be a pretty big step towards getting into the Hall of Fame, I think. He had probably a half-dozen years where he was the best player in the game – by far the best. So I think he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.”
Clarke dismissed the notion that he was helping to keep Lindros out of the Hall of Fame.
“No, that’s not fair,” said Clarke. “I would never, ever – I had some battles with him. I don’t think I was wrong, but I guess I was 50 percent wrong and he was 50 percent wrong. It doesn’t really matter. Going into the Hall of Fame is where I felt he deserved to be.”
Source: TSN 690/ Transcript: Nichols