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Special visit and day of practice with the owner

by Brian Smith | / Philadelphia Flyers

In the town of Santa Barbara, California, just north of Los Angeles, there’s a section of the community to which the Philadelphia Flyers are quite special.

Flyers chairman Ed Snider keeps a home in Montecito, just outside of Santa Barbara. On the other side of the town, in Goleta, sits a brand new ice rink called Ice in Paradise. It’s a non-profit facility, with one NHL rink and a smaller studio rink, and it just opened in October.

Snider is one of the major benefactors of the project, and the NHL rink is named for him. On Thursday, the Flyers paid a visit to their chariman’s second home, practicing at Ice in Paradise before visiting Snider in advance of their game this Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings.

“You walk in the rink and there’s a couple hundred people just skating, a free skate, open skate,” said Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol. “It just tells you the impact that center has on the community in and around it. Mr. Snider’s been such a catalyst of building things within communities, and that’s the first thing that struck us. It’s a beautiful facility, and the impact it has on the community is pretty special.”

Snider is on the board of directors of the facility, along with Steve Heinze, a former NHL player who now lives in the area. It was people like Heinze and Jack Norqual, a local retired businessman who played hockey all his life in Minneapolis before retiring to Montecito with his wife in the late 1990s. Both were among a faction of residents who enjoyed playing hockey, but had to settle for roller hockey because the only rink in the town closed in 1985. About 10 years ago, that group got down to the business of trying to raise money to open a community rink.

Ed Snider chats with Jakub Voracek and Steve Mason at his southern California home before hosting lunch.

“The land was donated,” Norqual said. “From there we set out to raise the money and we did it. Thanks to great donors like Ed Snider and many others, we managed to raise the money and built this. It was really Mr. Snider that had that idea to get a second rink and make it that small one. It worked out really well. What we’ve done, it’s for everybody. We’ve got general skating, figure skating, and we’ve got a lot of hockey here. There’s something for everybody.”

Norqual had worked extensively with USA Hockey while living in Minneapolis, and through some connections with the organization, he was able to track down Snider for a meeting. After explaining the concept, Snider agreed to help the project, and Norqual said his participation jumpstarted it towards success.

“I knew that it would take some drivers to get this thing done,” Norqual said. “We needed somebody like Ed Snider. It’s a great community. People love having things for the kids to do. Mr. Snider said the same thing - it’s not just hockey, it’s something for the community. It’s people like him, and others that came in along with him – they’re the ones that made this possible.”

After the practice, Snider hosted the Flyers for lunch at his home in Montecito. It was a different experience for the entire team – they’re more than used to seeing their owner in the locker room, which is sort of their home, but this was the first time they’d gotten to visit Snider’s home.

Matt Read and Claude Giroux take in a game of bubble hockey at Ed Snider's house.

“Not too many players get that opportunity to go to their owner’s house,” said Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn. “It was great to see him and his wife, and some of his family were there, and get to spend some time with him. Obviously he hasn’t been around Philly a ton this year, so it was good to get the chance to see him.”

As the captain of the team, Claude Giroux has frequently greeted Snider in the locker room and sits next to him each year in the team photo. Yet as well as he knows Snider, Giroux got to see a different side.

“Just walking into his place today, there’s a big Flyers flag and you just see the passion he has for hockey and for Philadelphia,” Giroux said. “We talked a little bit about hockey, but not that much. More about life and looked at everything he had in there. He’s got a really nice place. There’s a lot of cool stuff in there.”

Hakstol said the visit was special to everyone involved.

“I know what it meant to me and to the rest of the team,” he said. “It was tremendous. I’m sure it was great to see it light a fire in his eyes and to be able to spend that time with him. It was a great afternoon all around.”

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