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Ed Snider was the Philadelphia Flyers.
Snider, who passed away at the age of 83 today after a long battle with cancer, cared more about the Flyers than any of us cared about anything. He brought hockey to Philadelphia, founding the Flyers in 1966 and overseeing one of the most successful professional franchises in the NHL, and one of the best-run organizations in the city of Philadelphia, sports or otherwise.
His family released a statement, via the Flyers, that reads:
“We are deeply saddened to announce that our father, Ed Snider has died after a two year battle with cancer. He was 83.
Our Dad was loved and admired for his big heart, generosity of spirit, and dedication to his family. Despite his considerable business achievements and public profile, he was first and foremost a family man. He never missed a birthday, important family event or the opportunity to offer encouragement. We turned first to him for advice in our personal and professional lives. We grew up tagging behind him in arenas, stadiums and locker rooms; and his players, management and team personnel were our extended family. He treated his employees with respect regardless of rank or position, and the man they called “Mr. Snider” always would have preferred simply to be called ‘Ed.’”
Those around the arena would always see Snider’s family in tow, and that family extended to everyone wearing orange and black. He considered not just those who played for the team, but everyone in the Flyers community, a member of his family.
Snider owned the Flyers for 50 years, and had a hands-on approach for almost all of them. He was instrumental in turning the Spectrum from a nothing arena in South Philly to a place that was somewhere the Flyers and Sixers could be proud to play, but more importantly somewhere the teams could win.
The Flyers won two Stanley Cups in Philly less than 10 years after joining the league, and Mr. Snider deserves much of the credit for building an organization that was one of the class-run outfits in sports while creating an environment that was impossibly tough for the opposition night in and night out. And when the Spectrum became old and run-down, it was Snider who worked tirelessly to build the now-named Wells Fargo Center, one of the best new-era arenas in the country.
The Center—it’s easier after all the names the thing has had since it was built—is one of many arenas run by Comcast-Spectacor around the country. Along with the Flyers, Spectacor, as its own brand, is what made Snider his fortune and helped him reinvest in the team, making sure they spared no expense, especially on the ice. From the Flyers’ statement:
Through his company, Spectacor, and in partnership with Aramark Corporation and the Pritzger Family, he created Spectacor Management Group, which experienced significant growth and earned national acclaim for its impact in the industry. Under Mr. Snider’s guidance, Spectacor also developed and acquired nearly a dozen related lines of business including PRISM, the country’s then fastest growing regional paid sports cable network, and WIP, one of the nation’s first all-sports radio stations.
Mr. Snider was a hard-nosed businessman, an attribute that led to his success as an NHL owner, but it didn’t always endear him to his rivals, or the media. His involvement in two NHL lockouts had the opinions of hockey fans change as his stance changed, at times one of the driving forces of the work stoppage while, at other times, a catalyst for its end.
Through it all, Snider had the best interest of the league at heart, and he always—always—had the best interest of the Flyers and the city of Philadelphia in mind.
Snider’s biggest passion was his Youth Hockey Foundation, to which contributions can be made in his honor. His love of the game was echoed in comments by Comcast Spectacor President and CEO Dave Scott:
“Ed Snider was and will always be the heart and soul of our company. His entrepreneurial spirit was the foundation for many contributions to the sport of hockey and to the sports and entertainment industry in general. He will be forever remembered for his loyalty and his impact will endure forever in the hearts of countless Flyers players, coaches, team and company employees, both past and present. In addition, Ed was a generous philanthropist who cared for people in ways the public never saw. His enduring legacy through the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation will live on in generations of young people who will learn about his values of integrity and hard work.”
Snider wasn’t born in Philly. He was a D.C. kid who went to the University of Maryland. In 1964 he became a minority owner in the Eagles and it took less than three years for Snider to secure an NHL expansion team, five more to take over the Spectrum and three more after that to create a dynasty. Wherever he went—D.C., Maine, California or wherever his career and family took him—his soul never left Philadelphia. He made sure it never will.