Comcast Spectacor chairman and de facto Flyers owner Ed Snider has passed away after a battle with cancer.
Snider’s connection to Philadelphia sports goes back to 1964, when he purchased a 7% stake in the Eagles and was appointed vice president and treasurer. When he learned that the NHL was planning to expand, Snider (and Jerry Wolman– a point of contention among the two for years) partnered up to build the Spectrum to house the Sixers and whatever future hockey team might play there. In 1967, when the NHL expanded, he fronted a Philadelphia delegation that won the new franchise to be called the “Flyers” after a “fan vote.”
The New York Times gave a brief rundown of Snider’s accomplishments in 2011:
“Snider was instrumental in getting the Spectrum built in 16 months to house the first edition of the Flyers, as well as the N.B.A.’s 76ers. He also directed his hockey men to put together the truculent team that brawled its way to consecutive Stanley Cups; created the arena management behemoth Spectacor; sold a majority stake to the cable television giant Comcast and took over as the merged company’s chairman; built the new arena now known as the Wells Fargo Center; guided the N.H.L. to its television contracts with Versus and NBC; [and] set up and financed a nonprofit foundation that serves as the gold standard for providing hockey to inner-city children.”
In the modern era where sports teams are a business first, and many teams exist solely to turn profits for their owners and front office execs, Snider was an outlier. Though an outspoken capitalist, he was known for his desire to win no matter what. The loyalty he showed to his players, alumni, staff, and coaches was legendary, with countless players choosing to remain in the area and work for the organization. But Snider did not hesitate to make changes if they were deemed necessary. The man they called Mr. Snider cared about his people, but he cared about his team more. The team was his baby.
Snider formed Spectacor as a holding company for the Flyers and the Spectrum in 1974, and the company would go on to create and own a number of entities under Snider’s control. PRISM, WIP, the Sixers, and Comcast SportsNet were all part of the Spectacor (and then Comcast-Spectaor) portfolio at one time. When the Spectrum was on its last legs in the mid-90s, Snider and Comcast-Spectacor created what was then known as Spectrum II, which is now (after a half-dozen name changes) the Wells Fargo Center.
But for all of Snider’s business acumen, he’ll be remembered as a hockey guy. He was the driving force that brought the expansion project to Philadelphia, and under Snider the Flyers became the first of the non-original six teams to win a Stanley Cup, and then they won another one the next year for good measure. In the team’s first 20 years – a good measuring stick for an expansion franchise – they had the second best winning percentage in the NHL.
Snider was also the face of the team, as well as one of the faces of hockey. He served on the NHL Advisory Committee and board of governors. He also created the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation, bringing hockey to inner-city kids who otherwise wouldn’t be able to experience the game.
But he was not without his detractors. In recent years, he’s called his own criticisms “bullshit,” hung his hat on a failed Ilya Bryzgalov experiment, and produced box office (and critical) bombs in the film adaptations of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. But in the tense and often divisive Philadelphia sports world, there may never be a man as universally respected as much as Ed Snider was.
Snider is a member of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame, the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame, the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, and the Hockey Hall of Fame. Next season the Flyers will celebrate their 50th anniversary, and the first year of their existence without Snider around. He was 83 years old.