Flyers Real Issue: Missing Ed Snider

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 19: Philadelphia Flyers players wear a commemorative patch in honor of Ed Snider prior to the game against the Nashville Predators at the Wells Fargo Center on December 19, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 19: Philadelphia Flyers players wear a commemorative patch in honor of Ed Snider prior to the game against the Nashville Predators at the Wells Fargo Center on December 19, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

There are many sports owners that are fools. If you are Eagles fans, you know that they are blessed with a great owner, Jeffrey Lurie, while two of our biggest rivals, the Cowboys and the Redskin….err…Commanders, have two of the worst owners in sports: Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder. Their ineptness is comical and helps to keep their teams down.

Speaking of the Eagles, my uncle believed, back in the early 2000s when the Eagles were so close to winning a Super Bowl, that the team would do very little to improve. The team was winning the division every year, the stadium was packed, and merchandise was selling off the racks. Why spend money to go that extra step? After all, the team is raking in the money and that’s what matters most, right? Thankfully, the Eagles did win the Super Bowl, but it took a while to get there. And we all saw that Lurie was dedicated to winning.

The Flyers used to have someone like that too. Ed Snider was probably the most dedicated owner in all of Philadelphia sports history and one of the driving forces in the NHL. He helped to bring the Flyers into existence when the league expanded from the “Original Six”.  In their second year of existence, they got swept in the playoffs by the St. Louis Blues. He was furious at how they were pushed around and vowed that would never happen again.

He worked with team management and helped to create what would become the iconic Broad Street Bullies that won two Stanley Cup championships and lost two others from 1974 to 1980. All in all, the Flyers reached the cup finals eight times and qualified for the playoffs 37 times in the 50 years he owned the team before passing in 2016.

Since he passed away, the Flyers have made the playoffs twice in six years. There is definitely a correlation. While he didn’t meddle in team affairs, he did insist on a winning mentality. As such, he was beloved by his players and the community; especially for all of the community outreach programs that the Flyers do. Snider helped the city of Philadelphia fall in love with the Flyers and that love was greatly reciprocated.

Snider had a passion for this game. More importantly, he had a passion for this team. Outside of a dark stretch from 1989-1994, this team was almost an automatic shoe-in for the playoffs. And if they did miss it, they never missed it in consecutive years. The playoffs were our birthright. And when we didn’t win, the team would shake it off and try again the next season. Sometimes that would mean overhauling the team, via player transactions or a coaching change. But winning was always a priority.

When Snider died, the company he created, Comcast Spectacor, a division of cable giant Comcast, took full ownership of the Flyers. Their decisions are made in a board room and based on financial spreadsheets. Remember what I said about the Eagles…how the fans would keep coming back? The Flyers know the fans will come and buy gear. Our fans are one of the most loyal fanbases. What is the reason to get better?

In comparison, the Phillies are lead by a group of investors. For years, we were told that “once we get a new stadium we’ll start winning.” So, I sat through years of watching crappy teams play at the Vet with players who were good five years ago or could be good if they could stay healthy (see where I am going with this?). Then they got a new stadium and began to win. They won several divisional titles, captured a World Series title and dropped one to the Yankees.

Then what happened? The ownership felt that paying to keep winning was too much. So, they wanted to cut back on spending. As a result, the Phils haven’t even sniffed the playoffs in over a decade. It wasn’t until John Middleton bought a controlling stake in the team that the the team started to rebound. We know they aren’t there yet, but we can see that they are trying to get back to the playoffs. They have made the strides necessary to get there, but they needed a commitment. More importantly, they needed to get the decisions for the club out of a boardroom.

In 2012, I moved to eastern North Carolina. Peter Karmanos Jr. was the then owner of the Hurricanes and had been responsible for relocating the team from Hartford. The team had won the Cup in 2006, but had started to backslide as the owner wanted to save costs. When I first went to Hurricanes games, I was astounded by what I saw. PNC Arena holds about 18,000 people. Games would draw maybe 10,000 people on a good night. And even then, about half of the fans would be wearing the jerseys of the other team, no matter who was there. Fun fact: ushers there told me the Buffalo Sabres fans are by far the worst. Tickets in Raleigh are half what I’ve paid up at the Wells Fargo Center.

In 2017, Thomas Dundon became the majority owner of the team and would become the sole owner in 2021. Since he purchased the team, he installed Rod Brind’Amour as head coach and Don Waddell as team president and general manager. Thus entered the “Bunch of Jerks” era of Hurricanes hockey.

In the the last four years since Brind’Amour and Waddell have been in charge, the Canes have made four playoff appearances with a conference finals run to their credit. They have consistently been one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference and have won two straight Metropolitian Division titles. And even with some recent moves, they somehow are stronger after losing Vincent Trocheck to the Rangers and trading Tony DeAngelo to the Flyers by acquiring Brett Burns, Max Pacioretty, and Dylan Coghlan for virtually nothing.

Which brings us back to Chuck Fletcher and the Comcast board of advisors. Fletcher is team president and GM. He answers to Comcast, but since Comcast is mostly concerned about the bottom dollar, who is going to hold him accountable?

In recent articles by Walt Gebelein and myself, the question of leadership has been brought up. Should this deal have been made? Should we have traded for this guy or waited a year? Should we have drafted this guy or that guy? Armchair GMs can sit and debate these topics for hours. The wouldas, couldas, and shouldas, are great for conversation but don’t solve anything.

The real problem with this team is no clear leader. When Snider was here, you knew he was in charge. If he had to move mountains to get Eric Lindros by trading star vets and promising prospects, he did it. If Jeff Carter and Mike Richards are partying too much, make Coach Laviolette upset, and we can use that many to get Iyla Bryzgolov, he did it. Not every move was a winner, but he did what it took to put this team in a position to make it work.

And if it didn’t work, he did what it took to correct it; even if that meant letting go of coaches, management, and personnel who had failed. Under Snider, the team ALWAYS came first. The Flyers ship may be in rough waters at times, but you knew who helmed it and you knew the ship was heading in a certain destination.

Can we say that now? It’s funny that the failure to sign a top free agent, like Johnny Gaudreau, has devastated this fanbase. But it’s not because we didn’t sign him or Trocheck or anyone. It’s more than the fact that everyone else in the Eastern Conference has gotten better except us. It’s the apathy.

If you go back to the press conferences on free agency day, Fletcher admitted that they were “never in” on Gaudreau or any top free agent. And that they are “content” with what they had. How? How can you be content with a team that has floundered on the power play and penalty kill several years running now? How can you be content with a team that is getting worse every year? How can you be content with a team that has the best goalie they’ve had since Brian Boucher (the first time around) and still can’t win? How can you be content with a team that gives up leads constantly in the third period?

Gebelein also mentioned a lot of these things in a recent article as well. The ownership doesn’t seem committed to winning. “But,” you could say, “they are paying top dollar for their players and are tapped out with cap space? Isn’t that committed?” Well, the answer is, “Sort of.” They are committed to make it look like they are committed, but they do not seem to be so committed to get themselves out of the hole they made for themselves.

They gambled on the wrong players, but instead of fixing it, they are doubling down on it. Now they look desperate and can’t move anyone unless they forfeit their future in the process. This team has royally screwed up and they don’t know how to undo it. So, they are trudging along. In short, this is a team without anyone at the helm.

To paraphrase Simon and Garfunkel, “Where have you gone Ed Snider? A fanbase turns their lonely eyes to you…” We know Snider would not stand for any of this. We know he would not have allowed this. While I hope his soul is at rest, there is a part of me that he’ll turn into a poltergeist and haunt the Comcast board members who are running this team into the ground and “Jacob Marley” them back into shape.

Barring any sort of supernatural help, what this team needs is someone who actually gives a flub about this team. One owner can do that. A corporate VP of a corporate conglomerate cannot. Snider left a legacy to this team he loved and this city he loved. Who in the halls of the Comcast Towers can say they are doing the same thing for the Flyers?

Until one person is in control of this team, what we’ve seen over the past few years is going to repeat itself. These are the signs of things to come. Nobody is in charge and apathy is reigning. Buckle up Flyers fans. I’m not a pessimistic person in general, but I don’t see good times ahead for quite a long time. And speaking on behalf of thousands and thousands of Flyers fans all over this world, Ed Snider, we miss you.