Crowd remembers Snider as Philly ‘legend’ during public memorial

This article can be found published on the Daily Local News‘ website, the Delaware County Daily Times‘ website, The Times Herald‘s website, The Mercury‘s website, The Trentonian‘s website and The Reporter‘s website.
Philadelphia Flyers players, alumni and fans, along with friends, family and colleagues of Ed Snider remember the life of the Flyers founder during a public memorial on Thursday at the Wells Fargo Center. (Candice Monhollan)

Philadelphia Flyers players, alumni and fans, along with friends, family and colleagues of Ed Snider remember the life of the Flyers founder during a public memorial on Thursday at the Wells Fargo Center. (Candice Monhollan)

PHILADELPHIA — The team that played in the Wells Fargo Center Wednesday night — and hopes to play there again this season — is Ed Snider’s most visible contribution to the city that became his second home.

But for at least one speaker at Thursday’s memorial service to honor the Flyers’ founder, inside the building he helped get off the ground, there is another mark Snider left in Philadelphia that will live on long after the initials “EMS” have been removed from the ice.

“My future was as bleak as my environment,” said speaker Virlen Reyes, who was a 13-year-old from Kensington when she discovered the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation. “Crime was a big part of my five-day forecast, neighborhood drug deals were my basic studies in current events and economics, and the increase in dropout rates were my daily lesson in statistics.”

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Reyes joined the ESYHF and became the first from the foundation to go to college, graduating cum laude from West Chester University. Reyes is now working with Google Analytics and is enrolled in a professional government program in entrepreneurship and innovation at Stanford University.

“For the thousands of young people like myself who have been lucky enough to discover the Ed Snider Youth [Hockey] Foundation, we have a beautiful edge in life,” Reyes said. “Through the foundation we have been taught to understand our own potential and to know that there is no limit in which we cannot reach. Mr. Snider’s spirit will remain very much alive in each and every success story that comes from each and every participant of Snider Hockey.”

Reyes was just one of many speakers sharing memories of Snider Thursday. And the consensus seemed pretty clear: Snider will always be a legend in his adopted hometown.

“I decided to look up the definition of the word legend in Webster’s Dictionary,” said Drew Katz, who said Snider was like his second father. “It said ‘a legend is a famous or important person who’s known for doing something extremely well.’ Could there be a more accurate description of Ed Snider? What was so special about Ed Snider the philanthropist is that for decades and decades to come, the seeds that were sown long, long ago will change the lives of people … and generations yet to come. He truly embodies the word legend.”

Flyers fans gathered into the arena to pay tribute, along with Snider’s friends, family, Flyers players and alumni, youth hockey players and many more who were impacted by Snider.

“We gather today to thank Ed Snider one more time for everything he did for the Flyers, for Philadelphia, for the community, for the NHL and for the game of hockey,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman during the ceremony. “We gather in sorrow for his passing and in joyful celebration of a remarkable life.”

With the NHL sitting at just six teams in the mid-1960s and expansion on the horizon, Snider brought the Flyers to Philadelphia. Just seven years later, the team became the first expansion team to win the Stanley Cup.

His passion for the Flyers, as many who knew him well would say, was unmatched by any person.

Even in his final months, Snider could be seen in his orange wardrobe.

“He was in the hospital and the doctor said he needs to walk around a little bit,” said Katz, who is the son of Snider’s good friend Lewis Katz. “He was wearing a bright orange robe, I mean bright orange, and black slippers — his orange and black.”

He watched his first Flyers game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1967 — a win — and watched his last game 48 years later on April 9 against, ironically enough, the Penguins — also a win.

“Dad was very ill at the end of his life to the point where even speaking was a great effort,” said Jay Snider, his son. “He asked me to write a few things down, all of which came out in single words, except the final thing. The last full sentence he ever spoke to me, not just for me or the family, but he told me to tell (everyone), ‘I can’t thank the Flyers enough for everything they have given to me and my family.’”

Even for former players, the pain they felt at the loss of Snider is as great as any.

“Even though we knew Mr. Snider was passing and we had time to prepare ourselves, it really hurt and it’s going to hurt us for a long time,” said Bob Clarke, the former Flyer captain.

The Flyers are Sniders’ most visible contribution to the city. But one speaker at Thursday’s ceremony highlighted what might be the most important thing he left behind.

The very ice, which the night before saw the Flyers keep their playoffs alive, was covered for the most part, except for the logos at the center and a piece, directly in front of the stage, which bore his initials of “EMS.”

Both patches of ice were framed by orange carnations.

Those current players were also in attendance at the event, alongside many more who donned the orange and black at some point in their lives, including Clarke, Bernie Parent, Bob Kelly, and Danny Briere.

“He will remain a part of our lives through the stories we can all tell of him,” Clarke said. “When I pass … I really hope that when I get there, I get another chance to play one more game in the orange and black under Mr. Snider’s Philadelphia Flyers.”

Snider’s loss is felt not only just by family, friends, the Flyers and their fans, but also throughout the city.

It couldn’t be more evident than seeing billboards as far out as Chester County showing his infectious smile and in the city, where a mural paid tribute for the ESYHF.

“His impact on all of us is permanent,” Bettman said. “The fire in his eyes is now an eternal flame. Ed’s enthusiasm will still power the passion of the Flyers and every Flyers fan. Every young person in the Snider Hockey program will feel his guiding hand on their shoulder. Philadelphia is where his soul and his spirit will endure through the Flyers, Flyers Charities, the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation and so much else. … To the Flyers family, you had one incredible owner. Ed, thank you, and we will always remember you.”

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Categories: Business, Community, Ice Hockey, NHL, Sports

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