Ed Snider passed away this week at the age of 83, leaving a legacy that will be hard for any other sports owner to match.
Whenever there is a discussion about the most passionate hockey fan bases in North America, Philadelphia is ranked at or near the top of anyone’s list, even by the reluctant national media. Even during their worst years, the Flyers would regularly pack over nineteen thousand fans in to the Wachovia Center.
For a time in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Philadelphia not only supported an NHL team but, an AHL team as well. They not only supported the Phantoms, but the team lead the entire AHL in average attendance, with over ten thousand fans a game. An extraordinary feat for a city that already had an NHL team residing in it. Even by those who despise them around the league, the Flyers are considered a model franchise. And all of this can be attributed to one man: Philadelphia Flyers chairman Ed Snider. Sadly, Mr. Snider passed away yesterday at his home in California after a battle with bladder cancer.
Mr. Snider had a vision that hockey could make it big in Philadelphia and would stop at nothing to see that vision through. After graduating from the University of Maryland, Snider became a partner in the Edge Ltd. record company. He then sold the company and joined Jerry Wolman and Earl Foreman to buy the Philadelphia Eagles, where Snider owned a seven percent share of the team. When he learned the NHL was planning on expanding, Snider built the Spectrum which would house both the Flyers and the Sixers. On February 8, 1966, Philadelphia was awarded an expansion franchise that would later be named the Philadelphia Flyers.
When looking at past failures the city of Philadelphia had in supporting hockey, no one in their right mind could have imagined that the Flyers would turn in to the success story they are today. It only took the Flyers seven years to win their first Stanley Cup and the love affair between the City of Philadelphia and the Flyers has been going strong ever since.
Ed Snider’s contributions to Philadelphia and to society in general go well beyond the Flyers. After Barry Ashbee succumbed to leukemia, Snider started the Flyers Wives Fight for Lives Carnival that has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for cancer research. In 2005, he established the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation that provides a means for inner city children in the Philadelphia area to learn and play hockey.
Edward Malcolm Snider was born January 6, 1933 in Washington D.C. Even though he wasn’t born here, Ed Snider was truly one of us. Jeffery Lurie likes to talk about “the passion of the Philadelphia fans” and thinks he knows what makes us tick, but can any one of us really identify with Mr. Lurie and his wine and cheese crowd? Would an owner who truly understood the fans of Philadelphia allow something like Hoagiegate to happen under his watch? Josh Harris was born and raised here but, again, is someone we as Philadelphians can’t really identify with. He is a weak, absentee owner who allowed himself to get bullied by the NBA. One can only imagine what Ed Snider’s response would have been if he still owned the Sixers and the NBA decided to step in and tried to tell him how to run his franchise.
Even though Ed Snider was a billionaire, he was a truly passionate fan just like all of us. The NHL had a policy of not showing replays of controversial calls on video replay boards at arenas for fear of inciting the fans. After a particularly brutal call against the Flyers one night, Snider stormed out of his owner’s box, went up to the video replay room and said, “I don’t give a God Damn what the league says, put that play up there!!!” and they did. When the Flyers were playing the Soviet hockey team in 1976 and the Russians left the ice because they were upset that a hit by Ed Van Impe wasn’t called a penalty, Snider again stormed out of his owner’s box down to the Russian locker room and said, “Tell them if they don’t come back out on the ice, they won’t get paid.” After Game 6 of the 1980 Stanley Cup Finals that the Flyers lost to the New York Islanders, in large part because two Islander goals that should have been disallowed were allowed to stand, Snider was overheard by then Flyers beat writer Ray Didinger saying these words, “The officials killed us, the bastards. It was an absolute, total f*cking disgrace.” When asked about the director of officiating at the time, Scotty Morrison, Snider’s response was, “He should be shot!” Absolute classic Philadelphia response.
Call me crazy but I can’t even picture Jeffery Lurie cursing let alone going in to that kind of rage. When watching a game and a horrible call is made against one of our teams, who doesn’t curse up a storm or punch a wall or in the case of my Dad pick up the TV and almost throw it through the window when Leon Stickle blew that offsides call against the Islanders. The wall in my room in the house I grew up in Glenside was still caved in when I moved out because my brother almost punched a hole through it after the Phillies blew a 14-9 lead to the Blue Jays in Game 4 of the 1993 World Series. This is why we as fans can identify with Snider and it is why he is so loved in this city. He wants to win as much as we do and when we don’t, he goes ballistic like we do. He gets it.
I’ll never forget the night of Game 4 of the Flyers/Red Wings Stanley Cup Finals. The Flyers were down three games to none and had been thoroughly dominated throughout the whole series. The writing was on the wall, there wasn’t going to be any miraculous comebacks in this series. The Red Wings were just that much better than the Flyers. I remember my buddy Jim called me up on the phone and said to me, “Seed, we are going to lose, but we are going to lose this as a family. We still need to go out and watch this game together.” That was such a good way of putting it. “If we are going to lose, we are going to lose as a family.” The Flyers are more than just a sports franchise, they are a family. And again, this all starts with Ed Snider.
Every player who has played for the Flyers for any length of time to a man will tell you how well not just the player but his whole family was treated by Ed Snider. I heard a clip of Ron Hextall‘s interview on my way home from work today and Hextall said, “He didn’t just care about you the hockey player, he cared about you the man and he cared about your family.” That is such a big reason why all the former Flyers players are so loyal to the organization. Ed Snider truly cared about his players and would go out of his way to make sure they were treated right.
Two examples of what I’m talking about. Keith Jones had just signed a new contract with the Flyers but during the first few years of the contract he injured his knee and was never able to return to the ice. Jones was worried about his financial future and had also felt guilty about the fact they he had just signed this long contract extension but was injured at the beginning of it. Snider told him not to worry and paid Jones for the length of the contract even though Jones could no longer play. Then there is the case of Pelle Lindbergh. In the months before his death, Lindbergh and the Flyers were working on a contract extension for the star goaltender. The two sides had finally agreed on a deal and all that was left to do was for Lindbergh to sign the contract, but he died before he signed the new deal. Therefore Snider was under no obligation pay the Lindbergh family. Snider still honored the deal even though it was never signed by Lindbergh.
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Snider was a businessman who liked to make money just like anyone else, but he wasn’t the cutthroat businessman you see everywhere in today’s society. Snider truly cared for the people who worked for him and their families. And his passion for his team, the Philadelphia Flyers, was unparalleled.
I didn’t agree with everything Snider did. I thought there were times that he got impatient and pushed for deals like the one for Ilya Bryzgalov. But no matter what move Snider made, whether it was the right or wrong one, it was always made for the purpose of winning. No owner in this city wanted to win more than Ed Snider. He spared no expense in trying to get the Flyers another Stanley Cup. His death is tragic because the Flyers are finally on the right track towards finally winning another Stanley Cup but Snider won’t be here to see it. It’s a crying shame that he wasn’t able to stay here just a little bit longer to see the Flyers win him one more Cup. No owner in this city or this country for that matter deserves it more.
RIP Mr. Snider. You will be sorely missed by all of us.