April 11, 2016
The Flyers – and, more importantly, the city of Philadelphia and NHL as a whole – lost an icon Monday morning when Ed Snider passed away at age 83 after battling cancer for the last two years.
Snider, who hung on just long enough to see his team clinch one last playoff birth on Saturday, was much more than just the owner and chairman of the Flyers. And for evidence of the impact he had on every level – personal, team, league, sport, community – look no further than the people who proudly don the orange and black, the current incarnation of the franchise he took a chance on nearly 50 years ago.
General Manager Ron Hextall, who first came to know Snider as a player, and coach Dave Hakstol, who only arrived on the scene a year ago, each have fond memories of the late owner, as did the Flyers players who spoke to the media on Monday.
Ron, a lot of reviews from Mr. Snider as a player, an executive; he had talked about what you meant to the Flyers.
“When you think of the Philadelphia Flyers and everything we’re about, every trait, we’re passionate, we work hard, we’re gritty, we’re tough, we had a lot of will, and you think about all those traits; that’s Ed Snider.”
From the time that you played to becoming general manager, what constant was there with Mr. Snider? Did anything change personality wise with the way he did business and the way he interacted with you?
“Certainly my relationship with him changed over the past two years. I feel honored to have dealt with him the past two years as a general manager. It’s different as a player; it’s terrific as a player. One thing that you know as a player: He cares deeply about the uniform, about the logo, but he cared about you as an individual and he cared about your family. Those are special traits.
"As far as the passion, his passion never weaned. I think it’s absolutely phenomenal I was able to watch a game with him; the St. Louis game. So I’m sitting in his basement with him and we’re losing 3-0, and he looked at me and said ‘this isn’t the way we planned it’. It’s kind of like, 'No, it’s not.' We came back, we won that game; with 3 or 4 minutes left we scored. At the time he wasn’t doing great; he was in a lot of pain. He got up and was high fiving. The fourth goal he got up out of his seat.
"That’s something I’ll never forget. Pretty cool.”
What’s your all-time favorite moment?
“Probably the last two years of seeing how much the man cared about this franchise. He called me after the game in Colorado within five minutes and he said ‘this team just won’t quit’. He was so proud of our guys. There’s been a lot the last two years. Like I said , I got to know him on a different level than I’ve ever known him before. Like I said, I feel very fortunate to have been certainly part of his life, part of his franchise as a player, a scout, and now GM. It’s been an honor to work for him.”
Is there something to be said about him inviting you into his home a few months ago? Since then your record has been superb and clinching the playoffs, is there something to been said about Ed and his intertwined when you were with him?
“I don’t know it’s hard to say. I know there’s been a lot of talk within our room with coaches and ourselves between our guys about Mr. Snider. I think somehow his passion has come out in our guys, and our guys probably going through everything our guys understand how passionate he is about the team. To own a team for almost 50 years and to be that passionate from day 1 to day 50 it’s incredible. It really is. To see he wasn’t doing well and how much he cared about this team. It’s remarkable it really is.”
"I got the call this morning and it’s a pretty sad day. When we had a chance to see him this year in [Santa Barbara], I think it was fun. We got to talk about hockey, talk about life and obviously we wish we could have seen him a little bit more during the season. We missed him coming in the room after games. After a win, he gets pretty fired up, he gets excited and we kind of missed that a little bit."
Claude, what sort of words of wisdom or encouragement did he pass down to you? I know when you first came up, he gave you the Bobby Clarke comparison and there were times where he would take you to lunch in a time that you were struggling. What sort of memories do you have from some of those interactions?
"Every time we get to see him, you can just feel the passion. Him talking about hockey, he really likes the sport, he loves his Flyers. He’s the Philadelphia Flyers. He started the whole thing and he will always be the guy that kind of brought that to the city. He’s a really good man."
Many people have talked about what it means to be a Flyer. You’ve had the honor of being the captain of this team. Are you able to reflect on a day like this just how special it is to wear the C for this team and that owner specifically?
"Not just being the captain, but just being able to be part of this organization. I don’t think you see that everywhere in the league. Players that play here always find a way to come back. You’re part of the family and you just like the organization. You like the management, the players, just everybody that’s part of the Flyers. You become really tight. It’s a pretty sad day."
Claude, what’s your favorite memory of Mr. Snider?
"My favorite? I don’t know if there was one time in particular, but it’s after games when he came in the room. It’s hard to describe the excitement. You’d see him come in and every time he’d come in, you’d get nervous a little bit, especially after a loss. He’d come to you, we’d lose and he’d be telling us we played a great game and we played hard, we’re gonna get them back, and he’d get really fired up. It kind of made you forget about that loss and be worried about the next game."
Claude, hockey seems secondary right now, obviously. How’s this gonna affect the preparation for the playoffs?
"We’re pretty glad we were able to make the playoffs for him. The whole year, we were playing for him. That’s not gonna change for the playoffs. The best thing we can do right now is play as hard as we can. We know it’s not going to be easy against a good team, but we know he’ll be watching and he’ll be cheering us on."
I think everybody kind of saw this coming down the line. It’s no easier when it actually happens even though you think your prepared for it.
"It’s a very sad day for hockey. Mr. Snider was the kind of person who was very compassionate and was proud of the city of Philadelphia; especially the Flyers. For us, it’s a big hit like it is for everybody around the NHL. Unfortunately, under the circumstances you don’t pick the date which day it’s going to happen. It’s too bad for us and for everybody else, he can’t watch the playoff game this year, but we are going to have him in our thoughts in the playoff run."
Can you take us back to about 3 months ago when you visited Ed in California. How emotional was that?
"It’s been emotional. It was great to see him obviously. It’s too bad he couldn’t make it to the games in Philly this year. Like I said, that was the last time we saw him. At least we got the chance to go to his house and have a little chat with him. He was an amazing person. I met him when I got traded. I’m very happy I could be part of whatever he built 50 years back."
Over the past couple months people like Hextall and Clarke said that when they had a trying moment in their lives that he would call them and give them encouragement. Was there any time that he called you? I know you had a tough spot early this year, has he ever called you to tell you to keep your spirts up?
"Well we haven’t talked over the phone but we had a little chat when we were in LA at his house. We all know how Mr. Snider was. We talked about hockey, he always tried to bring as much positivness in your head, in your life. Like I said, it’s a big loss and I have only good memories with Mr. Snider."
Do you think that the success of the Flyers over the years is a reflection of his desire and passion to win and want to build a winner, and I guess to have a culture for you guys to know that his passion kind of runs through the entire organization?
"When you have an owner like Mr. Snider was it's easy to get up for every game, and if you know you have his support no matter what it helps a lot. When he built the Spectrum , when he brought hockey to Philly, I mean it’s going to be 50 years now. Like I said, he’s been such an inspiration for so many teams over the years. It’s too bad it’s been 40 years from the Cup, but hopefully we can get it done soon for him."
Can you just talk about those thoughts about keeping him in mind during the playoffs and his legacy, and what it means to you?
"It’s very important. You never wanted to disappoint him. Obviously, we were thinking about Mr. Snider all season long like G [Claude Giroux] said. It’s a sad day today. That playoff run could be very special. It will be dedicated to Mr. Snider."
Wayne, when you think of Mr. Snider, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?
"I just think of his presence, the way he carried himself, the way he came off. I remember meeting Mr. Snider; coming from L.A., we never really spoke with our owner in L.A. So I got the chance to come to the Philadelphia Flyers and he was one of the first people I spoke with. It was amazing, to me, the interaction that he had with his players and how he cared about everyone so much. Just his passion for this organization, for hockey. He was a great man."
Everybody that comes through here seems to say that it doesn’t take very long to notice his impact. What was your initiation to Ed Snider?
"My first year here, we got off to an unbelievable start. G [Giroux] just said after a majority of the games, Mr. Snider would come into the locker room. It was kind of my first real interaction with him face-to-face. He walked up and shook my hand and said he was happy to have me here. It meant a lot to me. Like I said, I never really spoke to the owner where I came from. And I think just to have the owner of your organization come into the dressing room and shake every single player’s hand means a lot. I think it really lets you know the way he felt about this team."
What does it mean to you to wear the A and be among the leadership and faces of the team and for this owner?
"It’s a huge accomplishment. Like you said, when you’re in an organization like the Flyers, it’s held in such high regard. When you have the opportunity to be a leader of that team, you take that. You put everything you have into it because you know your owner, you know the guy who’s looking down at you, you know who got you here. He’s doing that exact same thing. Our owner, how much he cares, that goes down the line. And every single person realizes that and it makes you want to give that much more."
A big part of his legacy will be the Youth Foundation and you’re involved in similar work. Talk about what that means just from your point of view.
"That’s another huge thing about Mr. Snider that I learned coming to Philadelphia, that he cares so much about everybody. He cares so much about everybody, and I think you can tell that through his work in the community. He didn’t do it for fame or for anything other than the fact that that’s truly what was in his heart. He was such a genuine person. He had such a big heart and he wanted to help everybody out.
"I have the honor of sitting on the board for Mr. Snider’s foundation, and I think to even be selected for that was a great honor for me, because I try to do some charity work myself and help out and get kids involved in hockey. I think for him to even offer me a position to help in Philadelphia meant an extreme amount to me."
I asked Claude how difficult it would be now to move on. How do you go on from here with the playoffs?
"I don’t think it’s difficult because Mr. Snider was all about hockey. He loved the Flyers and this is what he wanted. He stuck with us through everything this year and I’m extremely happy that we got into the playoffs for him. Although we will be playing with heavy hearts, we’re gonna do everything we possibly can to be successful in the playoffs because that’s what Mr. Snider would want. I know there’s nothing else that he wanted to see more than the Flyers winning another Stanley Cup. And that’s definitely our goal, and we’re gonna go out there and strive to bring the Cup back to Philly."
Wayne, you guys were out there in L.A. was there any feeling that this could be the last extended period of time that you were going to have with him, and did you make a note of spending a few extra moments with him?
"Yeah. Unfortunately that was the case when we got the chance to go to his home in California. He extended the invite for all the players to come. Obviously we took it with open arms. We went in there and he was so gracious. Just to get that opportunity to be able to spend a little bit more time with Mr. Snider and really talk to him, it meant a lot. It meant a lot to all of us."
What were your impressions of him when you were introduced as coach and then throughout the year?
"Obviously I’m a little different than our players in that respect in that I haven’t known him for a long time. Some of the things that stand out for me, I met him a little less than a year ago, and my first meeting with him was up in his office. He just immediately strikes you as a very gracious man and gentleman. And then as you have a short conversation with him, you quickly come to understand how passionate he is about the things that he cares about. And you see that competitive edge as well, immediately."
Dave, was the conversation you had with him on team photo day, was that the last sort of interaction that you had with him, and if you can, what stood out about that conversation?
"The last time I did speak with him was by telephone. One of the things from that conversation was the sheer joy that came through that conversation over a Flyers’ win that particular night. And I think that sums it up. It was a very easy conversation. He always has a way, I think, in my short time with him, of empowering and motivating the people that are around him. And really, that’s the way I felt after and out of that phone call."
How was he different than other executives you’ve come upon?
“I guess that’s a tough one to answer. Like I said, the qualities that come across right away. He very much has a presence when he comes into a room. In all of my meeting and interactions with him, he’s a real talent and a real easy manner of conversation, yet has a very clear and direct way of conveying the things that are important to him. Those are some of the character traits and characteristics that I saw in him.
"One of the things that really strikes me about him -- and it wasn’t in a meeting actually with Mr. Snider -- was in a visit to one of the community arenas that he and his foundation had had hand in building in town here. That’s probably one of the things that’s most striking to me is his care and his passion for philanthropy, for giving back to the community. That one day, I was there for a little less or little more than an hour, but in that one little time period I saw several hundred kids in our community that his foundation had a direct major impact on. Those are some of the things that also stand out for me.”
Games are secondary now. How does this effect the preparation for the playoffs moving forward?
“I think our players have a deep care for Mr. Snider and certainly number one having his family in all of our thoughts. That should be first and foremost. In terms of preparation, if I know our group it will only narrow and sharpen our focus.”
Three players just came in here talking about making this run for him, are you able to turn this into a positive motivation playing for him?
“Whatever the natural emotions are we’ll let those take place. It’s not going to be something we try to use as motivation. We’re going to play hard for Mr. Snider. I think this group has certainly had that in the forefront of their minds. I’m sure they will continue to do that. Like I said, I think it will do nothing but sharpen and narrow the focus. Maybe to help us continue with even a little harder push.”