Snider Legacy Game Part of Restoring Flyers Culture
As the Flyers prepared for Saturday’s game, the team posted founder Ed Snider’s Hockey Hall of Fame speech on social media. It was captioned as such:
“There is no greater love in sports than the Philadelphia Flyers and their fans. A special feeling of family permeates the Flyers organization,” Snider said at his induction.
Family. That was the foundation of the Flyers. When you put on an Orange and Black sweater or brandished the logo as part of the organization, you were part of the family, and your family was too.
The patriarch of that family was Snider, who was responsible for not only bringing an NHL team to Philadelphia, but establishing a culture that led to many successful seasons.
Snider, who would have turned 91 on Saturday, will be honored and celebrated pre-game when the Flyers face the Calgary Flames, dubbed the first Ed Snider Legacy Game. Saturday's game is a 1 p.m. scheduled start and fans are encouraged to be in their seats by 12:55 p.m. for the pre-game festivities. All fans will also receive a commemorative Snider Legacy Game patch.
That was a feeling that started to get lost in the mix over the last years. The identity of the Flyers on the ice was hard-nosed, physical, blue-collar. Off the ice, it was a family atmosphere that supported the foundation and grew to include hundreds of players over what is now 56 NHL seasons.
It felt like the culture was slipping away in the years since Snider passed away in 2016. The Snider Legacy Game is another example of the work Dan Hilferty and Keith Jones are doing to repair it.
“Ed Snider built the foundation for the Philadelphia Flyers and set the highest of standards for this organization both on and off the ice,” Hilferty said in a statement. “As a lifelong Flyers fan, I have immense honor and respect for Ed Snider and what he has done for this organization as I know all Flyers fans do. I look forward to sharing this special day with the Snider family, members of Ed Snider Youth Hockey & Education and our passionate fanbase. We made a commitment to honor Ed Snider’s legacy and we are looking forward to celebrating his memory at our upcoming Ed Snider Legacy Game.”
Among some of the notable changes were a return to the burnt orange jerseys, the return of the double logo at center ice – something Snider notably loved – and the extravagant proclamation of a “New Era of Orange,” complete with all the grandeur that press conferences of old had to offer.
As the front office also ushered in a “new era” with different yet familiar faces – Jones, Danny Briere, John LeClair, Patrick Sharp – one man, a carryover from the previous regime, didn’t have any previous encounters with Snider. For John Tortorella, equally as passionate in his style as a head coach, the similarities to Snider are what makes him regret never having the chance to see it first-hand.
“I never spoke with the man. I’ve heard so many great things about him,” Tortorella said following Friday’s practice. “Just the way people have talked to me about him, I have a special admiration for him. It goes on daily here talking about that man.
“He cared, and he cared about the people. I’m sure there were moments that people didn’t want to be around him, because he wore it on his sleeve. But I think, from an outsider looking in, that’s what probably draws people to him because of how much he cared. It’s one of my regrets that my fortunate opportunity being here now wasn’t at another time when he was living, because I would have loved to have experienced him.”
With Snider running the show in Philadelphia, it became a place that players wanted to play and experience for themselves. It became a place where free agents flocked and helped the Flyers constantly remain in contention. They became the franchise that took big swings and acquired All-Star caliber players.
Just look at the Flyers front office to see the examples. Briere was the big splash of free agency when he signed with the Flyers ahead of the 2007-08 season. LeClair was acquired in a blockbuster trade in 1995.
For a rebuilding team, the Flyers may not be much of a free-agency hotspot right now. But that’s part of the end goal.
“I hope so. That’s what we’re trying to do. Not so much that’s on our mind to get free agents to come here, but if your organization shows that it cares about people, their family, and the on-ice product is done the right way,” Tortorella said. “An organizational overview, it’s such a small league in how organizations are run. It gets out there pretty quickly if the organization is run correctly and people are treated fairly and people care about them. That’s when players start thinking maybe that’s a good spot. We’ve got a long way to go as far as the hockey, but of the organizations I’ve worked for – and I’m certainly not running down any of the other ones – this organization, how it cares for their people and how it goes about its business no matter what people say out there in the community, this is a really good organization.
“We have to get things straightened out to be a consistent, really good hockey team, and that’s a playoff hockey team, ways to go, but that’s our job. The other part of this, how they treat their people, it’s been fantastic.”
An important part of the process of getting there is to remember the foundation that got the Flyers there in the first place. The foundation of family. Showing that you care. Wearing it on your sleeve. Leaving it all on the ice. As the Flyers honor Snider’s legacy, perhaps the best way would be with the end result, and snapping a four-game losing streak in the process.
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN. Follow him on social media @Kevin_Durso.
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