Celebration of Ed Snider's Life: A Love and Passion for People

Gary Bettman said it wasn't something he usually hears from one of his bosses.

This, however, wasn't coming from your average boss. This was greater than business, more than a simple working relationship, bigger than hockey.

With the countless lives he touched, it always was with Ed Snider, who died on April 11 at the age of 83.

While battling cancer, the Flyers' chairman and founder would frequently talk with the NHL commissioner, a man he often butted heads with in the past throughout their hockey days.

"He ended almost every conversation with - and a lot of fans may not agree with this first part - ‘You are the best. I love you,'" Bettman said Thursday. "I love him, too, and we all do."

That was abundantly clear Thursday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center as family, friends, players - past and current - colleagues and fans celebrated Snider's life with a moving ceremony, including music, video tributes and a variety of speakers.

Flyers public address announcer Lou Nolan served as the master of ceremonies. Fans, decked in Flyers orange, filled the lower-section seats of the arena, surrounding the formal guests in the center bowl facing the stage. A big screen the width of the rink featured videos and pictures remembering Snider.

Two Flyers logos and Snider's initials painted on the ice were left uncovered by the black floor panels and surrounded by lights.

Both Flyers Stanley Cup championship banners hung above the stage.

The ceremony began with a video montage narrated by Comcast SportsNet's John Boruk encapsulating the legend's life and ended with Snider's grandson, Jake, on the piano singing a rendition of "What A Wonderful World."

After beloved anthemist Lauren Hart sang "God Bless America," 11 speakers shared stories of getting to know and working with Snider. The speakers - including Flyers legend Bob Clarke and three of Snider's children, Lindy, Jay and Jacob - all had uniquely different but similar relationships with Snider.

The overwhelming similarity was love for one another.

Above all of Snider's accomplishments - founding the Flyers and forming Comcast Spectacor, just to name a few - his passion for others stood out most Thursday as memories were shared.

"Many times over the years when we worked together, we had some pretty serious discussions," Jack Williams, former president of Comcast SportsNet, said. "Not arguments - discussions, that we both felt very strongly about, and many times they could get heated. But every time following those discussions, Ed would come over, hug me and say, ‘I love you.' You know what, Ed? I love you, too."

Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts lost his father, Ralph, within the year of Snider's death. Roberts said both his father and Snider created a special bond.

They were exactly alike.

"They each built businesses from nothing, and both remained ferociously loyal to their employees, their organizations, their communities and each other," Roberts said. "Most important were the two traits they shared above all others: their admirable optimism about everything in life and their deep love for their families."

Lewis Katz, a sports owner who died tragically in a plane crash in 2014, was best friends with Snider. Katz's son, Drew, referred to Snider as his second father.

"At my father's funeral, Ed Snider said, ‘Lewis Katz was the best man at my wedding because he was the best man I knew.' From that day forward, Ed became Dad No. 2," Katz said. "He had just started his own battle with cancer and despite his fears, despite all the horrible treatments, despite all of the commitments that he had in business with the team and with the family that he adored, Ed Snider found a way to be there for me, to comfort me, to mentor me and to make me feel OK at a time that was definitely not OK. That was the essence of Ed. He was a man who thought of others first."

Clarke was amazed by Snider's dedication to the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation, helping underprivileged children "succeed in the game of life," as its mission statement reads.

"His legacy is the Philadelphia Flyers and the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation, which will allow us to never become a faceless corporate team," Clarke said. "His image and his passion will always guide us. When I pass and when we all pass, we don't know where we're going. But for me, I really hope that when I get there, I get another chance to play one more game in the orange and black under Mr. Snider's Philadelphia Flyers."

In true Snider fashion, he thought of others during his final days.

That was Ed Snider - his life and his legacy.

"Dad was very ill at the end of his life, to the point where even speaking was a great effort," Snider's son, Jay, said. "He asked me to write a few things down, all of which came out in a single word or two. Except the final thing, the last full sentence he ever spoke to me. And this is what he said, not just for me or the family - he told me so I would tell you: 'I can't thank the Flyers enough for everything they've given to me and my family.'"

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