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A Celebration of the Flyers Patriarch

by Staff Writer / Philadelphia Flyers

Rather than being a sad occasion, the memorial for Ed Snider held at the Wells Fargo Center on April 21, 2016 was one of a celebration of one man’s incredible life and indelible influence that, in very palpable ways, make his spirit immortal.

It was also fitting that the Wells Fargo Center – a facility that was dreamed, fought for and became a reality as the successor to the Spectrum, which also was forged from Mr. Snider’s ceaseless passion and vision – was the setting of the celebration of his life.

With master of ceremonies Lou Nolan presiding over the memorial, a wave of tributes and personal stories poured in from the people who knew Mr. Snider the best from different facets of his professional, personal and philanthropic lives, which overlapped seamlessly because he only knew how to be himself.

Lauren Hart sang a beautiful acapella rendition of “God Bless America.” Longtime business partner and friend Brian Roberts, who lost his own father Ralph within the last year, spoke about what Snider’s friendship and mentorship meant to him, including the evolution of a phone-call ritual within minutes of every Flyers win during the late stages of Mr. Snider’s life. Another longtime business partner, Jack Williams, talked about his friend’s energy, innovation, generosity, humor and intensity.

National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman recounted a tale of how Mr. Snider confronted him after a Flyers 1997 playoff loss in which the franchise chairman was neither aesthetically nor competitively pleased.

Philadelphia mayor James Kenney talked about growing up a hockey lover and street hockey enthusiast in South Philadelphia. Virlen Reyes discussed how the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation gave her a vehicle to turn hardship in her life into opportunity and how Mr. Snider himself reached out to her and took personal interest and pride in her. Most of all, he taught her the value paying good deeds forward.

Drew Katz, a family friend of the Sniders whose father was perhaps Ed Snider’s dearest personal friend, talked about how he never knew the man on a business level. Instead, he was a second father of sorts. Multiple speakers made reference to Ed Snider’s patriotism, belief in capitalism as opportunity, love of the philosophies of Ayn Rand and his belief that one person could make a profound positive difference in the lives of many others.

The last speakers were Bob Clarke, talking on behalf of 500-plus players who have worn a Flyers uniform, and three of Snider’s children, including Lindy, Jay and Jacob Snider. Each spoke from the heart about the many lessons they learned from their father in every facet of life.

Jay Snider read the final statement his father made to him, with a wish that his son would share it publicly after his passing: “I can’t thank the Flyers enough for everything they have given to me and my family.”

The feeling was clearly mutual. Clarke emotionally recounted tough times and happy times alike; times when Mr. Snider got stern and times when he was comforting. Above all, the good of the organization came first.

“When I pass,” Clarke said, “I really hope that I get to play one more game for Mr. Snider’s Philadelphia Flyers.”

Among the attendees at the celebration of life were many hockey luminaries, including dozens of Flyers Alumni from every generation of club history as well as the entire current team. Other notables from the hockey world included the likes of Wayne Gretzky.

Symbolically, the center ice faceoff area of the rink was left uncovered on the event level floor, illuminated in a lit circular platform. The Philadelphia Flyers indeed became central to Ed Snider’s identity and vice versa.

The Flyers were more just a business to Mr. Snider and more than just another hockey franchise in a league that grew from six to twelve and, gradually, to 30 teams. He was the patriarch of a family he loved almost as dearly as his own relatives.

“I really like him,” said Clarke in a pre-ceremony video. “Actually, I love him, too.”

Added current-day Flyers captain Claude Giroux, “His passion [stood out most]. Not just for hockey; Life, community, the city, his family, the organization, his passion for everything he did in life he gave everything he had. He was just fun to be around.”

The Flyers became a family created in blood and sweat, unified in times of tears and adversity, steeped in community service and acts of caring that were done not for publicity but because they were the right thing to do. They were a source of creating opportunity and jobs in off-ice as well as on-ice capacities.

For those who played for and/or coached the team, NHL dreams that were born in far-flung places across North America and Europe became realities in Philadelphia because of Ed Snider’s vision. He personally welcomed them to the Flyers’ family with open arms, delighted in their triumphs, agonized over their hardships and demanded the same commitment to and passion for the team that he brought each and every day.

Prior to Thursday’s memorial current-day Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol shared what Ed Snider meant to him, as did Flyers captains Giroux, Wayne Simmonds and Mark Streit.

“I’m one of the people in this organization that didn’t know Mr. Snider for a long time, but I will never forget my first meeting with him and each and every meeting that I did have the privilege of having. He’s a man that - bluntly, he’s a man that gave me an opportunity to come to this level and an opportunity to become part of the Philadelphia Flyers,” Hakstol said.

In that way, Hakstol – who hails from Alberta, never played in the NHL and lived and worked for many years in Grand Forks, North Dakota – became permanently bonded to many, many others before him. Just like the others, he came to Philadelphia and soon realized he shared a small piece of the ongoing legacy that Ed Snider created when he, too, came to the city from his native Washington, DC to pursue his dreams.

Ed Snider was often called a self-made success but disliked the term for the same reason he cringed when people called him Mr. Snider rather than by his first name. He never put himself on a pedestal even if others did. He fundamentally understood that individual success in life – just as in hockey – is only possible and meaningful through teamwork, asking questions and learning from experience.

“I think one of the mistakes some people make is they treat [running a sports franchise] like a toy. They don't pay enough attention to it, and they don't hire the right people to run their team,” Ed Snider said to Sports Business Journal in April 1999.

"Most of the people I'm with have been with me for a long, long time. I think that speaks for itself. I hire good people and let them do their job.”

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