“This is my legacy.”
Philadelphia Flyers founder Ed Snider and I were standing in the middle of a dry, under-renovation ice skating rink in West Philadelphia in 2011 when he made the remark.
He looked the picture of health then. Tennis-tanned and trim with his slicked-back snow white hair offering a contrast to his jet black warm-up jacket with the orange logo of the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation.
The rink – the Laura Sims Skatehouse at Cobbs Creek Park– belonged to the city. But Snider helped spruce up the previously down-and-out semi-enclosed facility and three others, kicking in $6.5 million of a $13 million renovation program.
Snider Hockey was his, created in 2005 to teach the Philadelphia-area’s at-risk youth about the world of possibilities beyond their neighborhoods and life skills lessons through the prism of hockey. When the program needed more ice time for some 3,000 kids and growing, Snider ponied up to help enclose and modernize the public rinks without flinching.
He was a billionaire who sported two Stanley Cup rings and desperately thirsted for a third. He was a driving force in the National Hockey League, and a giant in sports and entertainment fields – but all those accomplishments took a back seat to Snider Hockey.
“It’s the only thing I’ve ever put my name on,” he told me for a story about the program was published in 2012. “We’re going to fund it properly and when I’m no longer around hopefully it will be a program that will go on forever. When I see what we’ve done for young children who may not have been able to accomplish what they’ve accomplished, what greater satisfaction in life can you get?”
Ed Snider, the fiercely proud patriarch of Philadelphia ice hockey, passed away early Monday in California at the age of 83 following a two-year fight with cancer.
Much of discussion of Snider’s life Monday centered on his role with his beloved Flyers, and rightfully so. But he also left a legacy with Snider Hockey, establishing one of the top non-profit, minority-oriented youth hockey programs in North America, if not the world.
According to Snider Hockey, 95 percent of its participants perform at satisfactory or above in core classes; 99 percent achieve grade-to-grade promotion; 85 percent of high school seniors continue their education in some form beyond high school.
“Ed created the Flyers professional, no-nonsense culture, fostered their relentless will to win and set the highest standards for every activity on and off the ice, including such initiatives as the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation and the Flyers Wives Carnival,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Monday.
In a statement announcing his passing, Snider’s children said their father “was a man with deep convictions and never hesitated to promote causes in which he believed.”
“His children and grandchildren will continue his philanthropic mission for years to come through the work of the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation (Snider Hockey) and the Snider Foundation,” the statement said.
John Sanful, executive director of Ice Hockey in Harlem, said “Mr. Snider’s greatest achievements come through his philanthropic efforts.”