Ed Snider always resembled the team he owned – pugnacious, determined, willing to out-hustle the opposition for the goal. The Broad Street Bullies were built in his image.
Snider, the founder of the Flyers, died of cancer Monday at age 83, two days after the franchise made the NHL playoffs for the 39th time. He had been ill for a while, but still so emotionally invested in his team that he watched on Face Time Saturday as Lauren Hart sang the National Anthem one more time.
He WAS the Flyers.
Start at the beginning. Snider almost single-handedly brought the NHL to Philadelphia. Sure, the $2 million entry fee he paid back in 1967 was eventually parlayed into a fortune, but at the time it was seen as financial folly. Everything stems from Snider – from the rich history, to the team colors, to the franchise name, to kids playing street hockey and scoring “for a taste of Tastykakes.” There isn’t a single person in our city’s history who changed the landscape of sports as much as Edward Malcolm Snider.
He also changed the landscape of the city. He got the Spectrum built. And then, in the 1990s, he built what is now called the Wells Fargo Center. Other owners looking for new buildings hold up their cities for zillions or threaten to skip town. Ed Snider built his own damned arena at virtually no cost to taxpayers.
It was always fun to watch Snider at a Flyers game. Dapper and tightly wound, he would hop out of his seat to shake an angry fist at the referee. He would growl, he would yelp, he would exchange high-fives after a Lindros goal.
Once, the NHL fined Snider $5,000 for leaning over the glass and giving the ref the universal "choke" sign. Several times he was billed by the league for banging down the door to the officials' dressing room. How many owners would do that?
And Flyers fans loved him for it. You knew that Ed Snider wanted to win as much as you. More. You knew that every season he would do his damnedest to capture that elusive third Stanley Cup. Rebuild? He wouldn’t have it. Tank? He’d spit at the word.
Of course, going full throttle didn’t always work. Snider and his GMs had a bad habit of trade-deadline deals that would send prospects packing in return for wheezing former superstars. And the franchise lived for decades off those two 1970s Cups, not coming to grips until recently with how much the sport had changed. Now, the Flyers seem in great hands with Ron Hextall and Dave Hakstol. It’s so sad that Snider won’t be here to see a bright future.
Ed Snider could be as warm and cuddly as a crocodile. The older he got, the more dyspeptic he behaved. You didn’t want to find yourself on the other side of an argument. He created WIP Radio, but every time he saw me, he would mention how much he hated “that Frankenstein monster.”
But he was a tremendously generous man who built rinks for city kids who otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to learn to play hockey. The Flyers Wives Fight for Lives charity remains a model for all sports franchises. I once mentioned to him a charity I was involved with, and two days later the effort received a $1,000 check signed by Edward Malcolm Snider.
And while Snider made enemies, he also created a loyalty among employees, from the executive office to the arena elevator. Look how many former players – from every era – have stayed in town, building their post-hockey careers and raising their families. You can’t say that about any of our other teams.
Ed Snider was a pioneer, and a visionary and a risk taker. He leaves an unparalleled legacy in Philadelphia.