Flyers Co-Founder Ed Snider is ‘The Last Sports Mogul’

First in a series of excerpts on “Ed Snider: The Last Sports Mogul,” written by Alan Bass and published by Triumph Books.

Tells it like it is

Ed’s character is one of the strongest anyone who knew him had ever seen. Despite one former associate admitting, “Nobody gets to the top without some carnage,” Ed was nothing if not honest and straightforward. He told you exactly what he thought and never felt bad about doing so. All he expected from everyone around him was hard work and the highest level of commitment. Give him anything less, and he would show you the door; show him the loyalty he desired and the same passion he had for his companies, and he would do anything and everything for you. His loyalty and generosity towards those he loved were legendary. He had a wonderful sense of humor, even if it only came out at certain times. Whether he was playing pinball at Frank Clements Tavern in downtown Philadelphia, singing and dancing to Billy Joel on the ride home, or sailing through the Caribbean, his take on life was whimsical.

The words “enthusiastic” and “passionate” may not even do justice to Ed’s personality. A man of superlatives, who viewed everything as “the greatest,” whether it was a steak he was just served in a restaurant or a new building he walked into for the first time, he saw life as one grand opportunity after another. His view of the world was often overly simplistic, labeling people as “good” or “bad” and seeing situations as black and white, leaving very little room for discussion.

Self-made owner

He was also perhaps the last ever self-made sports mogul. Many before him built their wealth solely off the value of a professional sports team, but it is difficult to point to one who did so after Ed. Nowadays, with the lowest-end NHL squad valued at hundreds of millions of dollars, it is impossible to enter the sports ownership world unless you are already independently wealthy. Ed was worth little when he started the Philadelphia Flyers with a small group of partners. With a few loans from local financial institutions, his simple goal was to grow hockey in Philadelphia, a sport that had an up and down relationship with the city since the late 1890s. A few years into his Flyers career, he was still millions of dollars in debt. … At the point Comcast purchased the majority of the organization from him in 1996, its value had ballooned to nearly $100 million — a far cry from the $2 million that he paid for the right to an NHL franchise in 1966. More importantly, his organization became a family for those involved — just talk to any player who ever wore the orange and black or any employee who spent a few years in the organization. Almost everyone sees themselves as a Flyer for life.

Some may disagree with decisions he made as the owner of the Philadelphia Flyers. Some may speak negatively about his management tactics. But no one can dispute the influence his work has had in his community, both on a micro and macro scale. During the 1976 Stanley Cup Finals, a fan hung a sign over the second deck of the Spectrum: “Win or lose, you’ve given Philly a lot to be proud of. you’ll always be #1 to us.” What Ed gave to Philadelphia was a leader who cared so deeply about his city and so deeply about his team, that sports fans throughout the region had little choice but to jump on the bandwagon and go along for the ride.

“Ed Snider: The Last Sports Mogul” is available here.

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