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Report: Feds reviewing Clarke’s relationship with Eagleson

April 23, 1997

BOSTON (AP) _ The FBI and immigration officials are reviewing Philadelphia Flyers executive Bobby Clarke’s relationship with former NHL players’ union chief Alan Eagleson, a U.S. fugitive from justice, The Eagle-Tribune of Lawrence reported.

Columnist Russ Conway reported that Clarke, a Hall of Famer who is president and general manager of the Flyers, twice entertained Eagleson, who faces dozens of criminal charges in the United States and Canada, at Flyer games in Toronto against the Maple Leafs.

One of those meetings occurred after NHL executives told Clarke that being seen in public with Eagleson ``wasn’t good for the league.″ Clarke later said he had ``forgotten″ that advice, the Eagle-Tribune reported Sunday.

Linda Vizi, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Philadelphia, told The Associated Press Tuesday that she had no information on any investigation concerning Clarke.

Messages left Tuesday by The AP in Pittsburgh for Clarke and Flyers spokesman Mark Piazza were not immediately returned. The Flyers are facing the Penguins in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Eagleson, a former agent, founded the NHL players’ union and served as its executive director for 24 years. But in recent years he has been hit with a slew of criminal and civil charges in the United States and Canada.

In 1994, Eagleson was indicted by a federal grand jury in Boston for allegedly spending millions of dollars in union funds on personal expenses. He faces 32 federal counts of embezzlement, fraud and racketeering, but has refused extradition to the United States.

However, Eagleson told The Toronto Star in August that he had made two trips into the United States since his indictment.

``I guess they didn’t check the customs closely enough,″ The Eagle-Tribune quoted him as saying.

In 1995, Eagleson was named in a class-action suit by more than 1,000 players and accused of misappropriating Canada Cup proceeds.

Last year, Canadian authorities accused Eagleson of defrauding Labatt Brewing Co., Hockey Canada, the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association in advertising deals for Canada Cup tournaments.

According to The Eagle-Tribune, Clarke last year invited Eagleson to a game and then into the Flyers’ dressing room. When NHL officials learned of the meeting, they met with Clarke to voice their displeasure.

``They pointed out to me that it wasn’t a good idea for me to be spending time with Al publicly like that,″ Clarke told the newspaper. ``That it wasn’t good for the league or anybody. They recommended that I just not do that again.″

But on March 19, Clarke again invited Eagleson to a game in Toronto. Clarke then asked Maple Leafs president Cliff Fletcher to keep television cameras off of him and Eagleson.

Fletcher complied.

``That’s right,″ he told the Eagle-Tribune. ``In all probability, he didn’t want to bring focus on it.″

Clarke said the second invitation was a mistake and he had ``forgotten″ the warnings of league officials.

``I would never do anything to embarrass the NHL,″ said Clarke, who played for Team Canada in the 1972 Canada Cup, an event organized by Eagleson.

Conway says the FBI and immigration officials ``are reviewing Clarke’s relationship″ with Eagleson and ``checking various laws and regulations which may have been violated.″

Boston Bruins president and general manager Harry Sinden said he was aware of Eagleson’s close relationship with Flyers chairman Ed Snider, who is Clarke’s boss.

``Bobby just wasn’t thinking when he did that,″ Sinden told the newspaper.

Clarke was named this year to head Canada’s hockey selection committee for the 1998 Nagano Olympics.

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