The Philadelphia Flyers have lost the oldest and most respected member of their family.
Ed Snider — the billion dollar businessman who brought professional ice hockey to the city in 1967 and was instrumental in forming the foundation of the 1970s’ “Broad Street Bullies” — has passed away at the age of 83 after a very difficult battle with bladder cancer.
Take a look back at the legacy of Ed Snider through photos.
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) April 11, 2016
“Ed Snider was an icon — the father of the Philadelphia Flyers Hockey Club, an entrepreneur, a philanthropist, a risk-taker, and a true visionary in the sports and entertainment industry,” said the Flyers organization in a statement on its Web site regarding its founder. “He had an unwavering passion and a never-ending desire to win. His impact on the sports world, the City of Philadelphia and the millions of lives he touched will be everlasting. We will miss him dearly.”
The sad news also comes just two days after the Flyers clinched a playoff berth with a clutch 3-1 win over their division rival Pittsburgh Penguins. Sadly, Snider — who had made it his personal goal to bring the Stanley Cup trophy back to Philadelphia for the first time since the back-to-back championship reign of the “Broad Street Bullies,” 1974-1976 — will never see a third title win firsthand.
As noted by Philly.com, the Flyers paid a visit to their sick founder and friend at his home in Montecito, California, just prior to their January 2 game against the Los Angeles Kings. The team — which had been struggling in the standings and appeared a longshot for the playoffs — found Snider’s sickness to be a rallying point to save their season.
Flyers’ head coach Dave Hakstol called this meeting “tremendous” for the players, noting “It was great to see the light and fire in the eyes of the man” who, many have pointed out — until this season — had never missed a home opener or an opportunity to pose for the team picture.
Our great leader has left us but Mr. Snider will walk with us forever.
— Bill Clement (@BillClement10) April 11, 2016
“The passion [Snider] has for hockey and Philadelphia hockey is really great to see,” said Flyers’ captain Claude Giroux, who recalled seeing a large Flyers’ flag on the front lawn. “He’s been a really good leader for us and to spend time with him [that day] was really good.”
Giroux, whose Flyers’ coincidentally went 27-18 in the stretch since meeting with Snider, en route to a playoff berth, said that their conversation was not necessarily about hockey.
“We talked more about life,” said Giroux.
“With every game during the push to make the playoffs this spring we hoped he would survive to see the Flyers win just one more game,” said Snider’s children in a statement on the Flyers’ Web site, noting that their father “gave the last ounce of his indomitable energy and strength to live through this hockey season.”
“Now,” they continued, “the Flyers must win without him.”
Ed Snider’s influence over the city of Philadelphia as the founder of its hockey team, however, goes so much more beyond wins, losses, and other casual trappings of a sports franchise owner.
Snider has most certainly left behind a legacy, as well.
“He was a great owner, and it wasn’t just because he wanted to win all the time,” said Bob Clarke, a former Flyers captain and executive. “[Snider] led the Flyers to be a team that players wanted to come to and play for… When players from other organizations became free agents… they wanted to come to Philly. And it was because of what Mr. Snider established and years of taking care of the players and their families.”
The Flyers’ founder was named to the N.H.L. Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988, and was also the chairman of Flyers’ parent company, Comcast-Spectacor. Nothing, however, was more personally satisfying to Snider than taking a new, unknown brand and making it — for a period of time — the unquestioned top team in professional ice hockey.
After all, the parade to welcome the Flyers and founder Ed Snider to Philadelphia in 1967 had just 25 attendees, Philly.com noted. The championship parade eight years later pulled in two million clamoring fans excited for hockey’s first expansion team to win the title.
“Ed created the Flyers’ professional, no-nonsense culture, fostered their relentless will to win and set the highest standard for every activity on and off the ice,” said N.H.L. commissioner Gary Bettman. “While the loss of Ed Snider tears a hole in the heart of the Flyers and the city of Philadelphia, and leaves a massive void in the city’s sports landscape, it also challenges all who knew him to carry forward the great works that are his legacy.”
Above the lavish treatment of his players and their families; offers to pay for schooling and Christmas gifts; charitable concepts such as the Flyers’ Wives Fight for Lives carnival and commitment to youth hockey programs; and importance to the genesis of the “The Broad Street Bullies” and other concepts, however, Ed Snider loved and wanted his Flyers to succeed at the highest level.
Ed Snider, Philly.com reported, had told the newspaper that his cancer had returned just prior to the start of this season, but implored the outlet not to publicize this news.
Snider, as always, wanted the focus to be on his young hockey team.
[Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images]