PHILADELPHIA -- Ed Snider stood there, hands in his pockets listening to one question after another from the small gathering of media.
Some asked about Fred Shero, the late, great Flyers coach who finally was getting inducted into the hockey Hall of Fame. Some asked about the Flyers newest charges, whether it was Vincent Lecavalier, Ray Emery or Mark Streit, all of whom were just introduced for the first time in a press conference.
And then one question came. It was rather innocuous. One that one wouldn’t have thought would have garnered much of a tasty quote from the Flyers chairman.
“How excited for you for the new season,” the inquisitor asked.
|Like the old E.F. Hutton commercials, when Ed Snider talks, people listen. And when his players talk after him, even if they've been in town for less than a day, they sound the same trumpet as the chairman. |
“I’m very excited,” Snider said, almost as if on vocabulary autopilot. But then he stopped himself and cocked his head to the side. You could almost see the light bulb flicker on. It was in that moment, that instant, that pregnant pause that as an observer who has watched Snider talk publicly countless times, that you could sense a memorable answer was brewing.
“I’m excited every year,” Snider said. “But this year is different. This year I’m especially excited. We added three great players without having to give up any of our young players, our prospects or our draft picks. We improved our team and we didn’t have to give up anything to do it. That’s what has me most excited and now we expect to win.”
While Snider certainly meant none of the young corps of players on the roster when he referenced the team not having to give anything up, someone reminded him that he’s spending more than $25 million dollars (albeit over 14 years) to have Ilya Bryzgalov and Danny Briere not play for him anymore.
“Isn’t that a lot of money,” the questioner asked.
At which point, Snider slid his hands back in his pockets, shrugged his shoulders, smiled and said, “We’re all still eating three square ones a day, aren’t we? But, we expect to win now.”
It was classic Snider – telling you that money is no object – but reminding you that if he’s spending that much money he needs a greater return on his investment.
And that message isn’t lost on anyone, not even the new guys.
“That’s one of the things that I really liked about the Flyers that made me want to come here,” said Lecavalier, adorning his new, No. 40 jersey. “This is a hockey town with great fans, great traditions and a commitment to winning every year.
“When I used to come here [with the Tampa Bay Lightning], I hated playing here. It was such a tough arena to play in. The players and the fans always seemed to feed off each other and make it hard on the visiting team. I’m glad I’m on the other side of that now.”
So is Emery, who left the defending Stanley Cup Champions to return to Philadelphia, where he has several great relationships, especially with assistant coach John Paddock, who both coached him and was an executive with the Senators during Emery’s time in Ottawa.
Ditto Mark Streit, who at age 35, said he signed a four-year deal with the Flyers because he wanted what could be his final contract to be with a team who has a shot to win the Stanley Cup.
“Last year in New York [with the Islanders] was nice,” Streit said. “But I knew I wanted to move on and go somewhere where there is a commitment to winning. When they traded me to the Flyers, it was exactly what I was looking for and that’s why I was comfortable with a longer deal.”
Streit said simply playing for the Flyers is a motivation to be as good as he can be, but said he also wants to prove that even though he’s already 35, that he can still play at a high level and excel in the right situation – and the Flyers are just that in his mind.
“I’ve only been in the league eight years,” he said. “I’m in very good shape. I feel really good. I’m not worried about my health this year or next year or the years after that. But, I do want to show people that I can play and that I can play well for the length of my contract. I want to prove it, and if that helps the team be successful, then that’s good too.”
It’s a mindset. It’s a way of life in hockey. And for the Flyers, it’s a state of being. It’s one that starts at the top with Snider and it permeates throughout the whole organization. It’s contagious.
“We’re going to have a very good team,” Streit said. “I’m really excited.”
And with that, he shoved his hands in his pockets and smiled. Seems like even that little bit of Snider rubs off on his newest players right away.
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