A while ago, Mr. Snider walked by me on Broad Street. I blurted his name and he looked over. I did not know what to say; I was not prepared for a conversation. So, I said what came to my mind first.
“Thank you,” I called out. He smiled and kept walking.
These two words that we hear so often that they do not seem special anymore were all I needed to say. Even if it did not mean anything to him, or he did not even hear it, I am glad I had the opportunity to say it.
That moment was the first thing I thought of when Sam Carchidi posted a Tweet stating that Mr. Snider would miss the team photo for the first time. My heart sunk. I knew what it meant. So, I shared my concerns via text with someone connected to the Snider family, in hopes that he would tell me I was crazy.
“[He] may not make it through the season,” the person replied.
My heart was racing. Once again, I thought of our awkward interaction and my eyes welled up.
Every morning, I woke up worried the news would come. Then the impossible happened; he made it through the season. I should have known. I should have expected it. Mr. Snider wore his passion for the Flyers on his sleeve. He fought for his team, his players and his fans. Of course he was going to fight to make it through the season.
Mr Snider was a father figure to his players. If they needed money, a job, or simply someone to be in their corner, he was there. He was always there. His was a love and dedication best exemplified by Rod Brind’Amour’s story about an encounter with a referee early on in his career.
Mr. Snider brought hockey to a city that did not want it and made all of us fall in love with it. He gave the gift of hockey to children through his foundation. While bleeding orange and black, he brought two championships to this city, which is as many as arguably any of us have seen by a single Philly team in our collective lifetime.
He took on the biggest, baddest teams of the 1970s and won. He took on the unbeatable Russians and won. Hell, he took on a citywide blackout that nearly prevented him from wiring the money needed to build the Philadelphia Flyers franchise and won. The dude fucking beat electricity. Nothing could stop him — not even Ilya Bryzgalov’s contract — except for the one thing humans have yet to find a way to stop, cancer.
The saddest part is that his biggest win of all has yet to come.
Mr. Snider did what was likely the hardest thing he ever had to do by building a culture of patience and developing prospects to this franchise. By handing the reigns to Ron Hextall and Dave Hakstol, he knew a winning team would emerge. It was probably the hardest thing he ever had to do as a part of the Philadelphia Flyers, even more so than watching his baby, the Spectrum, get demolished. He knew a championship would come and that it likely would not come during his lifetime. That tugs at the heartstrings quite a bit doesn’t it?
But that is Mr. Snider’s legacy; doing what needs to be done no matter how hard it may be. We must never lose sight of that and we must always respect and appreciate all that he did for us. While we do so, we can smile as we think of him sitting alongside Gene Hart, Kate Smith, Pelle Lindbergh, et al. watching his Flyers grow into the championship team he knew they would be.
Marcello De Feo is an Applications Engineer who is trying to get his new band off the ground. He can frequently be found watching sports on TV while his kids run around screaming and his dog begs for his attention.