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NHL Stadium Series

Stadium Series has Britt family on opposite sides of rivalry

Son employed by Penguins, father worked for former Flyers owner Snider

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

The rivalry between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins, which will be renewed at the 2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on Feb. 23 (8 p.m. ET; NBC, SN360, SN1, TVAS2), both envelops and is ignored by the Britt family.

Jim Britt has worked for the Penguins since 2009 and has been director of team services since 2012. His father, also named Jim Britt, was hired by Flyers founder Ed Snider to run the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation and has deep roots in the Philadelphia hockey community.

"I know passions run high, but I don't have a problem reconciling the qualities of the people that work for the Flyers that I've had the benefit of becoming close to … and at the same time the same kind of relationships in watching Jimmy work for really high-quality people," Jim Sr. said.

 

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In his first career, Jim Sr. was a United States Postal Inspector whose job took him from his native Philadelphia across the country, including Boston, where Jim Jr. was born. The family returned to the Philadelphia area in 1986.

Jim Jr. played hockey with teams around the region, and then attended King's College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. During his senior year he was hired by the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, Pittsburgh's American Hockey League affiliate.

He started out in ticketing but eventually added video coach to his job duties, where he worked with coach Dan Bylsma and assistant Todd Richards.

"There wasn't budget space for an additional staff member to make up that part of the coaching staff," Jim Jr. said. "Because of my background growing up playing hockey, I was the person in the office who made the most sense to become the video guy. I was selling tickets in the morning, going in the afternoon to the rink and breaking down game film."

Bylsma was promoted to coach the Penguins during the 2008-09 season, and after the Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2009 he added Britt as video coach.

"I remember it as vivid as if it was yesterday; I was at the barbershop," Jim Jr. said. "It was pretty late in the summer, maybe after Labor Day, a week or two before training camp. I knew there had been some discussion in making a change in that role, I wasn't sure. … Dan and I had had conversations where I was able to express my interest but there were other candidates too, guys with longer histories and experience than myself but not necessarily with the relationship that Dan and I had.

"He called me one day, started the conversation, 'Jim, I'd like to offer you the job in Pittsburgh', and I cut him off so quickly, I said I'll take it. He was almost taken aback; he said 'Jim, we haven't talked about contract or salary or anything'. I said I don't care, I'll be there tomorrow."

While Jim Jr. was moving up in the Penguins organization, his father was starting a second career after retiring in 2003. He received a master's degree in sports management from Neumann University in Aston, Pennsylvania, and not long after was hired as the hockey director at Flyers Skate Zone, an ice rink franchise owned by the Flyers, in Northeast Philadelphia.

His work there caught the attention of Snider, who was looking to create a non-profit foundation that brought hockey to underprivileged children in the Philadelphia region.

Snider made Britt the first employee of Snider Hockey in April 2005, with the title of executive vice president. He held the position until retiring in 2017.

"His question was, why I was interested in the position, and I said that I was a Philly kid growing up, was very proud of the city, very proud of being a big Philly sports fan," Jim Sr. said. "This was a chance to give back. Sports was always a big part of my life, a scholar-athlete in high school, college scholarship. It was a way for me to give back."

Jim Sr. worked closely with Snider in getting the program going.

"When he looked you in the eyes and I looked at him in the eyes, there was a drive and a passion there that was refreshing, that was energizing," Jim Sr. said. "It helped lead the effort. There was no question that if I needed something, if the foundation needed something, he might ask questions, he might ask probing questions, things like that. But he was passionately behind and led the efforts with the ESYHF."

Some of those questions Snider asked also were about Jim Jr., and his work with the Penguins. When Jim Sr. was invited on a Penguins fathers' trip in 2009, he let Snider know he was going.

"I could hear him chuckling, and he said you better be careful, I'm going to have spies watching you," Jim Sr. said.

Jim Sr. tried to keep his Flyers connection low-key but Ray Shero, the son of former Flyers coach Fred Shero and then general manager of the Penguins, blew Britt's cover.

"Ray liked to pull my chain a lot," Jim Sr. said. "When he introduced me at the first fathers' dinner … he said 'I want to make sure everyone knows Jim Britt works for the Flyers'. Ray liked to poke the bear a little bit, but it was all in good fun."

Said Jim Jr., "It's even funnier coming from Ray Shero of all people, who grew up in the Spectrum. His pictures were all over the walls."

When Jim Jr. won the Stanley Cup with the Penguins for the second time in 2017, he opted to bring it to Philadelphia. He spent part of his day with the Cup with his grandmother and got to show her where his name was inscribed. But there was more than just one Jim Britt represented on there.

"I've never lost sight of the fact that I'm the sixth Jim Britt, and not James the sixth, we all have different middle names," Jim Jr. said. "It means a lot to me that that's how it's written on there. We lost my grandfather a few years ago. … We took [the Cup] to my aunt and uncle's house where my grandmother lives, got to show her her husband's name on there, my dad is on there. And it's really forever now. That to me means as much as anything. The ring and all those things are great, but to have our name on the Cup is as special as it gets to me."

Added Jim Sr., "My mother, without missing a beat, laughs … she says you know who's upstairs telling St. Peter that his name is on the Cup? Jimmy's name is on the Cup. And we're all so proud of him. That one stays a long, long time."

The next moment of pride will come at the Stadium Series. The family was together in Pittsburgh at the 2017 Stadium Series at Heinz Field, but having it at Lincoln Financial Field will be even more meaningful.

"I always look to those dates when we play the Flyers, coming home to Philly," Jim Jr. said. "With my schedule it's often the only time I get to see [family] during the season. The night before it's always a meal at my brother's house, or since he's a chef, at one of his restaurants. But that's the only chance we have to get together. It'll be pretty neat."

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