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Ranger influence huge in formation of Flyers

by Adam Kimelman
The latest chapter in the long, bitter rivalry between the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers will play out Jan. 2, at the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park.

In 263 regular-season meetings, the Flyers have a slight edge in victories, 114-112, with 37 ties. It's a bit of a different story in the postseason, where the Flyers have won six of their 10 meetings, including the past three.

The most memorable of those playoff meetings was the 1974 Stanley Cup Semifinals, when the Flyers became the first expansion team to beat an Original Six club in a playoff series.


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And to think, the Rangers had a very easy chance to stop all those headaches before they even happened.

In 1965, the NHL announced it was going to expand by six teams in time for the start of the 1966-67 season. This was huge news, but earned only a small mention in Philadelphia, where hockey on a number of levels had drawn little to no attention for more than 30 years.

Ed Snider, who was treasurer of the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles, learned about the expansion from his banker, Bill Putnam, who was leaving his job to work for Jack Kent Cooke, who was bidding to bring the NHL to Los Angeles.

"I said, 'Wait, what did you say? They're expanding in the National Hockey League?'" Snider told "There was nothing in the papers here -- the only story had been a six-paragraph blurb buried in the Philadelphia Daily News. Nobody knew anything. He (Putnam) said the National Hockey League is going to double in size, and he named a bunch of cities. I asked about Philadelphia, and he said, 'I'm sure Philadelphia would be one they would consider, but there's no arena, there's no anything.'"

Snider learned Rangers President William Jennings was the head of the expansion committee, and arranged a meeting. There he learned a number of cities already were preparing bids, but Snider said Jennings was ecstatic when presented with the idea of an NHL team in Philadelphia.

"He was just glad I showed up," said Snider. "It's a great metropolitan area, a great rivalry for New York. He was great to me from the day I met him."

Jennings laid out the requirements for joining the NHL -- a $10,000 application fee, an arena with a seating capacity of at least 12,500, and a $2 million franchise fee. All applicants also would have to present their bids to the NHL Board of Governors.

Snider found the NHL's terms agreeable -- even though there was no arena and he had no ownership group in place outside of his own interest. The only request Snider made of Jennings was to keep his interest in putting a team in Philadelphia a secret so Snider's group would be the only bidder in town.

Jennings agreed; if he hadn't, there's no saying whether Snider would have continued his quest.

Snider found the necessary funds, privately financed the construction of the Spectrum on land that had been earmarked as a parking lot for the Eagles' eventual new home -- Veterans Stadium -- and sold the Board of Governors on Philadelphia's worthiness as an NHL city.

Then the first time the Rangers and Flyers met, Nov. 16, 1967, Snider's team repaid Jennings and the Rangers with a 3-2 victory in Philadelphia.

It was the first of many fierce, close battles between the teams; but looking back, they only happened because the Rangers allowed it.

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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