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Snider dies at 83

Posted by Eric Fisher On April 11



Even those words seem inadequate when describing the influence and accomplishments of Flyers founder Ed Snider, who died at age 83 after a battle with bladder cancer.

He will forever be remembered as the embodiment of the Philadelphia Flyers, a franchise that reflected his passion and determination, just as his passion and determination mirrored the fans in the city in which his franchise played.

But Snider’s accomplishments don’t begin and end with the Flyers and their two Stanley Cups. The Spectrum. The newer building, now called Wells Fargo Center. WIP. PRISM. Comcast SportsNet. Xfinity Live. Flyers Skate Zone.

Snider truly changed the sports landscape in Philadelphia.

His influence, however, went far beyond sports. In addition to all of the jobs created by his various creations, Snider said he wanted his legacy to be the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation. This organization uses hockey as a means to an end, and that “end” is helping inner-city kids learn the value of teamwork and academics while having fun playing hockey.

Snider frequently told the story of the creation of the Flyers. How he tried repeatedly to get a bank loan to pay off debts incurred while bringing an NHL team to Philadelphia and creating the arena that became the Spectrum. How fewer than 100 people came to the parade to welcome the team to Philadelphia. How The Hockey News rated the Flyers the expansion franchise least likely to succeed.

Building success with Bullies

The franchise quickly achieved success, both on the ice and in becoming part of the fabric of Philadelphia. During the 1973-74 season, the Flyers became the first of the 1967-68 expansion franchises to win a Stanley Cup. To prove it wasn’t a fluke, the Flyers repeated that feat the following season.

The team was a tough, physical team that has gone down in hockey lore as The Broad Street Bullies. Lost in the brawling image is the talent of those Bullies. Bernie Parent. Bob Clarke. Bill Barber. Rick MacLeish. Jimmy Watson. All of these players possessed remarkable skill. The first three are in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Snider, too, is in the Hockey Hall of Fame. He was inducted in 1988. In 2011, he was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.

Perhaps he is in those halls of fame despite the accomplishments of the Broad Street Bullies rather than because of them. The Flyers were hated by hockey fans throughout North America. Media members opined that they were ruining hockey. Until, of course, the Flyers handed the touring Soviet Red Army team their only defeat during their North American tour in 1976. On that day, with the Soviets leaving the ice to protest the Flyers’ physical play, the Flyers became heroes for defending the honor of North American hockey by repelling the Soviet invasion, sending the Red Army team off the ice with their tails tucked between their legs.

There is, of course, a Snider story that goes with the Flyers-Red Army game. When the Soviets walked off the ice and refused to return, Snider reportedly went to the Soviet dressing room and told them if they didn’t return to the ice, not only wouldn’t they be paid for that game, but they wouldn’t be paid for their entire tour. They came back and finished the game.

This is one of many legendary stories about Snider’s appearances in the locker rooms of the Spectrum and the arena that replaced it.

Sticking up for players

In 1999, when the Maple Leafs clinched a playoff series with a 1-0 victory in Game 6 after scoring on a power play goal with one minute remaining, Snider unleashed a tirade about the penalty called on Flyers forward John LeClair that left the Flyers shorthanded at the end of the game. Snider ripped the penalty called on a clean player like LeClair, contrasted it with a non-call on a hit to the head of Flyers forward Jody Hull earlier in the third period, and questioned the impartiality of referee Terry Gregson, an Ontario resident. The kicker to the story is that Snider reportedly entered the locker room once and, not finding many media members there, came back a second time to unleash his tirade.

Another story involving officiating was told by Rod Brind’Amour earlier this year when he was inducted into the Flyers Hall of Fame. Brind’Amour told a story about getting ejected from a game at the end of his first season as a Flyer. After the game, Snider, as he frequently did, appeared in the locker room. Brind’Amour put his head down, trying to avoid the owner, only to find Snider standing in front of him.

Snider wanted to know what happened. Brind’Amour, who said he was worried he had played his last game as a Flyer, told him the ref said the call didn’t matter because the Flyers weren’t good enough to make the playoffs, that the ref didn’t have to discuss it with him because he hadn’t proven himself as an NHL player and that Brind’Amour should be grateful to have a long summer to improve his golf game. Instead of getting mad at Brind’Amour, Snider left his young center and barged into the officials’ locker room. According to Brind’Amour, Snider told the referee he can live with the bad calls, but what he wouldn’t stand for is the mistreatment of his players. He said, “Don’t you ever talk to that kid, or any of my players, like that ever again.”

Snider always protected his players. Another famous outburst came just a few years ago when Claude Giroux was left off the Team Canada roster. Snider called the decision “ridiculous” and “anybody who thinks Claude Giroux doesn’t belong on the Canadian team doesn’t know anything about hockey, as far as I’m concerned.”

This type of support from the team’s owner and chairman is what built the loyalty so many Flyers, past and present, feel toward Snider. From Bob Clarke, Bill Barber and the players of the Bullies era to Paul Holmgren and Ron Hextall of the next era to Giroux and Wayne Simmonds today, the players exhibit loyalty, respect, and even love for Snider.

There is so much respect that the players refer to the team chairman as Mr. Snider – even though Snider preferred to be called “Ed.” Snider treated his players so well that Philadelphia became a desired location for free agents. Few players, if any, ever complained about being traded to the Flyers.

Class and influence

The Flyers haven’t won a Stanley Cup since 1975, but the Flyers still have a much-deserved reputation as a first-class organization.

It’s an organization that wasn’t expected to succeed. Under Snider, the Flyers became one of the best-known NHL franchises. Despite the long drought since their last Stanley Cup, the Flyers’ winning percentage since their inception is second only to the Canadiens.

Snider’s accomplishments go far beyond the Flyers. His influence can felt throughout the NHL and throughout the Delaware Valley. It can be felt through the Flyers Skate Zones and through the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation. It can be felt through all the charities touched by the Flyers Wives Fight for Lives Carnival, the model for similar events throughout North America.

Snider is a legend. He is a giant. Locally, he is arguably, the most influential individual in the history of Philadelphia sports.

Yet even the preceding sentence doesn’t seem adequate to describe the impact and influence of Ed Snider.


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