When Ed Snider is inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame, it will be as much for what he s done for the game today as for what he s doing for its future.
Snider, the founding owner and current chairman of the Philadelphia Flyers, will join Chris Chelios, Gary Suter, Mike "Doc" Emrick and Keith Tkachuk as the Class of 2011 in a ceremony Dec. 12 in Chicago.
During his time running the Flyers, the team has risen to elite status in the League. In 45 seasons, the Flyers have missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs just eight times, tied with St. Louis for the fewest among the "Second Six" expansion franchises. They ve won 16 division titles, eight conference titles and back-to-back Stanley Cups, in 1974-75. They also reached the Stanley Cup Final two seasons ago.
His stewardship of the Flyers has earned him numerous honors, including the 1980 Lester Patrick Trophy for his service to hockey in the U.S. and enshrinement in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988.
"The Flyers are the most important legacy I have and started from scratch," Snider told NHL.com. "That's the reason it's happened. I owe it all to the Flyers."
Of all the great moments in franchise history, Snider said his greatest memory was watching the Flyers win their first Cup. In Game 6, at the Spectrum, Bernie Parent stopped all 30 shots he faced and made Rick MacLeish s first-period goal stand up as Philadelphia beat the Boston Bruins, 1-0.
"The first Cup, there s nothing like it," Snider said. "Having beaten Bobby Orr and the Boston Bruins, 1-0 game in Philadelphia, I can t think of anything that even comes close to that. Then the response of the city and the fans, and 2 million people at the parade. We knew that hockey had arrived and that Philadelphia was a hockey town. There s nothing that can equal that."
Snider is best known for being as passionate as the fans who routinely have sold out first the Spectrum and now the Wells Fargo Center. For years, he would call every player traded away by the franchise to thank him for their service to the organization. The way he treats current and former players is a well-known fact around the League.
"The Flyers are the most important legacy I have and started from scratch. That's the reason it's happened. I owe it all to the Flyers." - Ed Snider
"Mr. Snider is the epitome of class, professionalism, philanthropy, and most importantly, leadership," former Flyers captain Keith Primeau told NHL.com. "Therein lies the secret as to why Philadelphia is such a desired destination for free agents and players in general League-wide. Mr. Snider cares about this city, the people of this city, and his players. In a business that says owners owe the players nothing but a paycheck, those same people don t know Mr. Snider and his moral convictions."
"It s just so cool to see Mr. Snider come down and see the guys after the game," added current Flyer Danny Briere
, "or see them on the road … it just seemed like he cares so much about the players and the team and it seemed like he enjoyed the season, seeing his team do well and to be around. He s always there. He s always on top of things and he really knows what s going on."
While Snider has become famous for his stewardship of the Flyers, the 78-year-old is just as proud of his Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation.
Created in 2005, the foundation provides under-served inner-city youths, especially ones from Philadelphia, with the opportunity to learn to play ice hockey while at the same time providing educational opportunities and encouraging them to stay in school.
"I wanted to do something for inner-city kids for a long time," Snider said. "I was trying to figure out what I could do. I decided I wanted to try and do it through hockey. Take these kids off the street and give them something they hadn t experienced before. It started slow, but now it s really reached a crescendo and it s going to get bigger and bigger. We have great members on our board who contribute their time and money. I match $2 for every dollar (donated). We provide all the ice time, all the equipment and all the educational services free of charge. It costs them nothing to be part of it."
The foundation started by working with the Philadelphia School District to jointly create educational programs at local rinks. More recently, however, Snider and his foundation have gone from working in a portion of the rink to taking full control of the rinks.
In 2008, with three ice rinks owned by the city of Philadelphia targeted for closure due to budget issues, the Snider Foundation offered to take control of those rinks and save them for the city. Since then, the foundation has taken control of all five city-owned community ice rinks, and, earlier this year, the foundation matched a grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to fund a $13 million renovation project that will upgrade and enclose four of the currently open-air rinks, making them available for use year-round.
"The city was going to close the rinks and we stepped in, said we'll run them, pay all the expenses," Snider said. "The rinks were neglected. They were open-air rinks -- they had a roof, but the sides were open. They were built in the 1950s and 60s, but because of neglect they were barely usable. The locker rooms were a disaster, the roof sometimes leaked. Plus you could only have programs from November to March when it was cold. We ve enclosed the rinks and they re beautiful. Basically we can use them 365 days a year for these kids and it s phenomenal for our program."
The first of the new-look rinks, the Laura Sims Skate House in the Cobbs Creek section of West Philadelphia, was opened Nov. 23. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter participated in the ribbon cutting.
"Ed Snider is a true champion for the city of Philadelphia, and I deeply appreciate his ongoing commitment to our city and our youth," Nutter said. "The city s partnership with the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation has resulted in expanded services to the public, including ice hockey instruction, equipment, supplemental academic services, and year-round skating opportunities at three recently completed rink enclosures. Philadelphia kids now have more opportunities to play and learn in constructive, supervised environments. The city is truly grateful to Ed Snider and the ESYHF."
"There's nobody more passionate about his team, the Flyers, about his city, Philadelphia, or about giving back and doing the right things," added Bettman. "And that s why you see the (ESYHF), that s why you see this rink. It represents all the things I love about Ed Snider because he s one terrific human being."
While Snider always will be associated with the Flyers, he s just as proud of what his foundation has done today, and will continue to do in the future.
"I ve never put my name on something," Snider said, "but I put my name on this because I want it to be my legacy."