On April 11th, the city of Philadelphia and the hockey world lost one of its strongest proponents. The passing of Mr. Ed Snider is a reminder of both how far sports can reach and how effective strong ownership can be in building a successful organization and improving a marketplace.
Snider embodied hockey in Philadelphia, but his most significant impact was on the business of sports nationally. Snider was one of the first owners to truly understand the value of his employees: early on, he treated his players and employees well and created a culture that athletes and executives wanted to be a part of. This approach helped the expansion Flyers land players and win two Stanley Cups in the team’s first 10 years.
Over the last week, I’ve read numerous articles detailing Snider’s relationships with his players, and the respect and compassion they shared for one another. His ability to connect with others and thoughtfulness in both good and bad times are indicative of the kind of leader that Snider was.
Snider’s business acumen was equally impressive:
- He founded Spectacor (now Spectra), the holding company for the Flyers and The Spectrum, in 1974.
- In 1976, Spectacor launched PRISM, a regional TV channel that aired the Flyers, Phillies and 76ers, as well as other sports content and movies. PRISM helped pave the way for sports broadcasting and what is now Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia (and Comcast’s multitude of regional networks nationwide).
- In 1988, Snider purchased local radio station WIP, which then became the first all-sports station in the market.
- He orchestrated the approval and construction of the Wells Fargo Center, which opened in 1996, then sold a majority of his stake to Comcast forming Comcast-Spectacor, which Snider went on to chair.
- Comcast-Spectacor purchased and owned the 76ers for a period of time, and built Philly Live! (now Xfinity Live!), an entertainment destination in the stadium hub.
In addition, Snider empowered talented executives to operate subsidiaries such as Global-Spectrum (venue management), Ovations (food & beverage/retail management) and Paciolan (ticketing/analytics), all of which accumulated healthy client bases in the sports and entertainment industry.
Arguably, Snider’s most significant impact may have been felt through his involvement with the Philadelphia community and the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation. By many accounts, this was his greatest accomplishment and his legacy. He dedicated much of his time, energy and wealth into making hockey a part of inner-city Philadelphia, and creating an outlet for kids who would have never otherwise been exposed to the sport. In conjunction with the city of Philadelphia, the Foundation helped complete a $14.5 million project to overhaul four public rinks, classrooms, learning labs and public meeting spaces. The foundation will continue to be fueled by the support of its employees, volunteers and Flyers players.
A member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame, and recipient of the NHL’s Lester Patrick Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Global Sports Summit, Snider’s accomplishments have been well acknowledged. To me, though, it’s personal. Growing up in suburbs of Philadelphia, it always amazed me to see the avid support for the Flyers, and witness firsthand just how prevalent hockey is in the area. That credit rightfully belongs to Mr. Snider, a prime example of the good that sports can do and the impact an active owner can make. Through his actions, he ingratiated himself and his organization into the lives of many in the area, even those he never met. To me, that was his ultimate calling. To a life well-lived – rest in peace, Mr. Snider.