Is Flyers Nepotism a Bad Thing?

29 Dec 1998: Keith Jones #20 of the Philadelphia Flyers in action during the game against the Calgary Flames at the Canadian Airlines Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The Flyers defeated the Flames 4-3 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Ian Tomlinson /Allsport
29 Dec 1998: Keith Jones #20 of the Philadelphia Flyers in action during the game against the Calgary Flames at the Canadian Airlines Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The Flyers defeated the Flames 4-3 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Ian Tomlinson /Allsport /

If there is one thing we can say about Ed Snider, it’s that he really, really loved his hockey team. From the day he helped bring the Philadelphia Flyers into existence, that team was his passion. And he didn’t want his team to stink. No sir. He wanted it to represent Philadelphia and play its guts out. And for over 50 years, the Flyers were one of the premier teams of the NHL.

During that time, one of the things that Snider tried to do was instill an idea of “family” within the Flyers. From the top levels of management to the players, you were part of the family. It was ingrained in you so that you actually gave a damn about the team. The Flyers took care of their players and invested in them.

You saw this reflected last year in a poll taken up by The Athletic. In the results, the Flyers came in third in the league of where professional sports agents tried to steer their clients to, just behind Tampa Bay (winners of two previous cups) and Toronto (where every non-French Canadian wants to play). So, even on a team that was struggling and even in a city with “notorious fans”, why do agents and players want to come to play for the Philadelphia Flyers?

Sean Shapiro, who conducted the poll, said this:

"“The Flyers do the little things right, always have. Whether it’s making the right amenities for the players or having the right things for the wives….One agent pointed out how it’s not customary or required for NHL teams to give a player an NHL jersey to keep when they are called up — yes, players have to buy their own jersey in many cases — but in Philadelphia, players are given the small courtesy of getting the jersey. One agent pointed to how the team even goes out of the way to make players’ kids feel welcome….You play in Philly and you know the organization cares about you and your family.”"

And with those extra perks in mind, it also shows that the team cares about their players. There is a culture here that lasts. It’s one of the reasons that the Flyers Alumni events are always well attended by players and fans alike. It’s why players like Ian Laperrière, who spent just one season in Philly, is still in the organization. It’s why Eric Lindros, who had a horrific divorce from the team, is a team ambassador along with players like Bernie Parent. It’s why Chris Pronger, who spent only a brief period of his career as a Flyer, works within the organization.

With that said, this is why people like Keith Jones and Daniel Briere stick around. It’s why players like Wayne Simmons want to hear boos when they return because of the love of the fans or why Claude Giroux got emotional in his return to Philly. The city, the fans, and the organization love their team and their players. In return, the players love the city, the fans, and the organization back.

When I moved to Eastern NC 10 years ago, I was excited that I could go see professional hockey in Raleigh, about 90 minutes away. When I first started seeing Hurricanes games at the PNC Arena, half of the arena was empty. When fans were in attendance, half of them would be wearing the jerseys of the other team…people like me wearing Flyers jerseys (Fun fact…an attendant told me that the Buffalo Sabres fans are actually the worst to deal with!). It was embarrassing. You wouldn’t see that sort of stuff happening in Philly. It’s only since Rod Brind’Amour took over the team that the fans have embraced the team.

So, when people say that it is a shame that the Flyers keep “hiring from within” and that they keep going back to the same sort of people, why is that a bad thing? If I want someone to take over this team in leadership, I want someone who actually cares about it.

Snider is gone, sadly. But the people who have ran this team loved it. Bobby Clarke and Paul Holmgren, for all their faults, deeply and truly loved this team. Many of the alumni who come out still bleed Orange and Black.

With Jones and Briere in charge of the Flyers, I don’t see someone who is just happy to have a high paid position to run a team. This is personal to them. This touches their hearts and souls. I’m not saying they are bringing a championship here to Philly any time soon, although it would be nice. I’m saying that they are not going to do anything to embarrass the team, tarnish its legacy, or willfully alienate the fans. They care about this franchise.

One doesn’t have to look far to see teams that don’t care. Go north to Ottawa or west to Arizona. See how those fans have been treated by organizations that are just happy to be mediocre and leadership that sees their job as…well just that…a job. For me, I’d rather have someone who has a fire in their belly and a true love for the team.

I’m not upset that the Flyers keep going to alumni to fill in team roles. In fact, I wouldn’t have it any other way. You could argue that it brings a lack of vision as the team keeps shuffling the deck with the same cards. I’d argue back that at least they care enough to restore this team to its former glory days.