PHILADELPHIA lost its most influential sports figure in history with Monday’s passing of Flyers co-founder and Comcast Spectacor creator Ed Snider at 83 after a long battle with bladder cancer.
The icon was a sports “futurist” who played some kind of role in virtually every major sporting occurrence in Philadelphia over the past five decades.
From his bringing the NHL to Philadelphia in 1967 with the expansion Flyers to the birth of the sports television and entertainment entity known as Spectacor in 1974 that grew into Comcast Spectacor to the opening of the state-of-the-art CoreStates Center (now Wells Fargo Center) in 1996, it is fair to say that the entire sports climate and culture of Philadelphia today is connected to the innovative visionary most commonly and respectfully referred to as “Mr. Snider.”
Snider’s “Broad Street Bullies” reintroduced Philadelphia’s blue-collar tough-guy reputation to the modern American sports community by intimidating their way to Stanley Cup titles in 1974 and ’75.
Although his Flyers have not won another Stanley Cup, they appeared in six more Finals, and Snider’s dogged pursuit of a third title set the standard of championship motivation in Philadelphia.
No Philadelphia team put more emphasis on and resources into trying to win a championship than the Flyers.
As an owner, Snider made Philadelphia’s two most important individual player acquisitions of the past quarter century when the Flyers traded for the rights to Eric Lindros in 1992, and then, while he was chairman of the Sixers, the team drafted recent Hall of Fame inductee Allen Iverson No. 1 overall in 1996.
While neither of those iconic players brought a championship to Philadelphia, their almost simultaneous eras electrified the city’s sports conscience like few others.
The building of the Wells Fargo Center ushered Philadelphia into the modern times of sports facilities, as the Eagles moved into Lincoln Financial Field in 2003 and the Phillies into Citizens Bank Park in 2004.
Snider’s final contribution to the South Philadelphia Sports Complex was the role he played in helping open the immensely popular entertainment site Xfinity Live! in 2012.
Snider saw the future of sports sooner than most and turned questionable ventures into sports industry giants.
By persuading the Phillies and Sixers to join the Flyers in broadcasting home games on his PRISM station, Snider set the path for the regional sports powerhouse Comcast SportsNet – the broadcast home of the Flyers, Phillies and Sixers.
Before “Philly Sports Talk” evolved out of “Daily News Live” on Comcast, there were innovative, localized sports television shows such as “Broad and Pattison” and “The Great Sports Debate.”
Snider’s purchase of radio station WIP (610-AM) in 1988 finalized its transition to the all-sports format that would become, at time, a nemesis and one of his harshest critics.
So many things that are now givens as parts of Philadelphia’s sports conscience and society trace their genesis in some way back to Snider.
Limiting Snider’s contributions to only his sports achievement, however, would be a severe disservice to his legacy.
He was a philanthropist who gave back to all segments of Philadelphia society. Through Flyers Charities, the Flyers Wives Carnival has been one of the most significant sports charitable organizations for four decades.
The Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation was founded in 2005 and uses the sport he loves to help implement life skills to underserved kids in Philadelphia. In addition to introducing hockey to more than 3,000 boys and girls in nine city sites through free equipment and ice time, the foundation offers character building, life skills, academic, fitness and nutrition programs.
When Ed Snider passed on Monday, the city lost the chairman of Philadelphia sports and so much more.