Players, dignitaries and friends say goodbye to Ed Snider, the owner and founder of the Philadelphia Flyers.
Only hours earlier, Ed Snider’s Flyers embodied the spirit of their late longtime owner, battling tenaciously to put off what appeared to be the inevitable and stay alive for at least another night.
But that same Wells Fargo Center ice was transformed into a solemn place April 21 where fans, a legion of former players joining the current ones, friends and local dignitaries gathered in tribute for the man they referred to as a legend.
Drew Katz, son of Snider’s best friend, Lewis Katz, who was killed in a plane crash two years ago, said he looked up the word in the dictionary to confirm it was fitting.
“It said, ‘A legend is a famous or important person who’s known for doing something extremely well,’” said Katz, who described Snider as a second father to him, especially following his own father’s sudden death. “Could there be a more accurate description of Ed Snider?
“In Judaism, we’re taught at funerals to neither exaggerate a person’s good qualities nor dwell too much on his faults. That’s easy for me. To me, Ed Snider was a gentle, loving honest soul. He was extraordinarily generous with his time and his money, Tough as nails on the outside, but really soft on the inside, and he wasn’t afraid to say ‘I love you.’’’
This was a final opportunity for many of the people whose lives he touched to express their own affection for Snider, whose likeness has been superimposed over the Flyer logo, inscribed “A Flyer Forever.”
Over the course of nearly two hours, they told stories not only about his passion for the team he founded in 1967, but of his caring for others.
Some were funny — like the time Snider had Donald Trump tossed from his private box because Trump wouldn’t shut up and let Snider watch the game.
Some were poignant, like Virlen Reyes telling how getting involved with Snider’s Youth Hockey Foundation turned her life around when she seemed headed on a downward path — and how he continued to show an interest in her years after.
And some were simply appreciative of Snider as a friend, father, business colleague or owner of the team they felt privileged to play for.
“Growing up in South Philly, which was about one-third Jewish, I learned the Yiddish word mensch,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said. “That describes him better than anything.
“Ed Snider was a mensch.”
After Lauren Hart sang “God Bless America,” the Flyers’ unofficial theme song since the franchise’s early days, Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts was first to speak. He described how Snider was a source of comfort following the death of his father, Ralph. This past year, Brian Roberts repaid the favor.
“We started video chatting after every Flyers’ victory,” he said. “I’m glad I had a chance to be there for Ed this season. I lived for those calls, because Ed touched something special and profound in all of us.”
He was followed by former Comcast President Jack Williams, who talked of the early origins of Snider as a cable TV entrepreneur, first starting PRISM, which later evolved into Comcast.
Then came NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who told how Snider was commemorated in Philadelphia for securing an NHL franchise by having a parade down Broad Street, joking that more people were in the actual parade than turned out to cheer them.
Yet just seven years later Bettman noted some 2 million people jammed that same street to celebrate the Flyers’ first Stanley Cup championship parade.
Other speakers included philanthropist Michael Milken and Hall of Famer Bob Clarke, generally considered the greatest Flyer ever.
Clarke said he was there to represent more than 500 Flyers alumni — many of whom were on hand — saying how Snider remained in their corner even when they were at their lowest.
Finally, Snider’s six children came to the podium.
Jay Snider, who served as team president from 1983-94, said the family has been touched by the tremendous public outpouring of affection since his father’s death. While the Flyers were a revenue stream for him, he never considered it as such.
“The irony is dad never ever looked at the Flyers as a business,” he said. “They were his passion — the ultimate manifestation of his determination, his competitiveness and his will to win. Dad believed in strong principles and those principles were imbedded into the soul of this organization. This was truly his extended family.”
His daughter, Lindy Snider, revealed the five values in life he taught his children: to have a personal code, work ethic, to show courage, to have love and passion in everything you do and finally, family.
“Money is the reward for what you do, not the result.” she said, quoting him. “Love what you do or don’t do it. Either you’re going to be a follower or a leader — you choose.”
On this day, the Flyers and their extended family chose to follow their leader one last time, knowing from here on it will never be quite the same.
Then again, knowing Ed Snider, he wouldn’t want it any other way.
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