Ed Snider dies at 83; remembered for founding Flyers, passion for community

When he was hired by the Philadelphia Flyers, coach Dave Hakstol looked at the collection of team pictures posted on the walls of the arena. “There’s one gentleman in every single team picture, and that’s Mr. Snider. And I think that tells you what kind of man, and what kind of owner, he is,” said Hakstol. 

This season was the first in 47 years in which Snider didn’t appear in that team picture. It was no secret he was battling bladder cancer. It was no secret, in hockey circles, that it was looking dire for him as his beloved Flyers were making a playoff push, and it was no secret that Snider’s failing health helped motivate players like Wayne Simmonds to get them into the postseason.

On Saturday, the Flyers made the playoffs for the 38th time under Snider. On Monday, they lost the man responsible for willing them into existence.

Ed Snider died at age 83. He was the chairman of Comcast Spectacor, which owned the Flyers, the Wells Fargo Center, Comcast SportsNet and facility management company Global Spectrum. He also owned the Philadelphia 76ers from 1996-2011.

His children released this statement on Monday morning:

“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.’" 

"From him we learned the importance of helping others and the value of supporting our community and beyond. He was a man with deep convictions and never hesitated to promote causes in which hebelieved. His children and grandchildren will continue his philanthropic mission for years to come through the work of the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation (Snider Hockey) and the Snider Foundation. Revered in his adopted city of Philadelphia, we too were captive in the orbit of his brilliant light and magnetic personality.

"During his lifetime, he cultivated a cherished circle of friends whom he loved dearly--and who loved him back--whether in Washington, DC, Monmouth, Maine, Philadelphia or Montecito, California. Unrivaled, however, was his love for the Philadelphia Flyers Hockey Club, the team he created 50 years ago and to which he remained fiercely devoted through his final days. With every game during the push to make the playoffs this spring we hoped he would survive to see the Flyers win just one more game. He gave the last ounce of his indomitable energy and strength to live through this hockey season, but now the Flyers must win without him.

"He fought his last years, months and days with courage and grace and recounted his love for many including his Flyers family and fans. We are grateful for the outpouring of love and support from the community, his friends and all those who were fortunate to have been touched by him in some way, large or small.”

Snider founded the Flyers when Philadelphia was awarded an expansion team in 1966. As the story goes, he was a vice president for the NFL’s Eagles when he saw a long line of Boston Bruins fans standing in the freezing cold to see a last-place team in the 1960s. He helped assemble an assortment of heavy-hitters, and the city was an easy sell to the NHL. The team name, “the Flyers,” was suggested by his sister.

It was Snider who encouraged the building of the Broad Street Bullies. “We might not be able to skate with these guys, we may not have the talent the Original 6 have, but we’ll build our team with one thing: We can be as tough as anybody,” he said, via Adam Kimelman of NHL.com. “Let’s just go out and get tough guys, and nobody will intimidate or beat up out players ever again.”

The Bullies would pummel their way to Stanley Cups in 1974 and 1975.

Of course, influence cuts both ways. There’s no question that Snider was one of the most hands-on owners in the NHL. Sometimes that manifested in the team making aggressive moves in an effort to win another Stanley Cup; sometimes that manifested in overly aggressive decisions that pushed them further from that goal.

Snider never passed the buck. It was his team, and those were his expectations: Win the Stanley Cup again. And while the expectations were high, and the team’s failure to meet them were frustrating, Snider created an organization that felt like a family. Despite the pressures, despite the intensity of the media and the fan base, people wanted to play for Ed Snider.

Through the years, Snider would become one of the most influential NHL owners, especially with his hands on a media empire like Comcast. Gary Bettman counted on him as an advisor through this years as NHL commissioner.

Bettman released this statement:

“Ed Snider was the soul and the spirit of the Flyers, who have reflected his competitiveness, his passion for hockey and his love for the fans from the moment he brought NHL hockey to Philadelphia in 1967.

“Ed created the Flyers’ professional, no-nonsense culture, fostered their relentless will to win and set the highest standards for every activity on and off the ice, including such initiatives as the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation and the Flyers Wives Carnival. While the loss of Ed Snider tears a hole in the heart of the Flyers and the city of Philadelphia, and leaves a massive void in the city’s sports landscape, it also challenges all who knew him to carry forward the great works that are his legacy.

“On a personal note, I have valued Ed’s counsel, I have admired his philanthropy and truly have cherished his friendship. Ed was an unmistakable presence and an unforgettable personality. Like most people who had the pleasure of knowing Ed, I will miss him terribly.

“As the NHL family grieves Ed’s passing, we also celebrate his courage, his vision, his leadership and his commitment to future generations of players and fans. We send our thoughts of compassion, comfort and strength to his family, his friends and all whose lives he touched.”

As was mentioned, one of Snider’s lasting legacies is the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation. We’ve seen it when the Flyers have been featured on NHL documentaries: Players interacting with youth hockey teams, equipment and facilities being donated. It wasn’t enough for Snider to be an NHL owner – he wanted to grow hockey in the hearts and minds of subsequent generations of fans.

Few owners in the history of sports have the decades-long legacy of Ed Snider, from the founding of the franchise through over 40 years of stewardship. His dedication to the franchise, its city and its fans can’t be celebrated enough as they mourn his loss. 

--

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY