Hundreds of Flyers Fans Turn Out to Pay Final Respects to Ed Snider

Two hours before doors opened Thursday, fans lined the sidewalks and parking lots of the Wells Fargo Center, patiently waiting to enter and get to their seats.

But they weren't there for a game. They weren't there for a concert. They weren't there for a pro wrestling show or the circus or any other kind of event.

They were there waiting patiently on a sun-soaked spring Thursday afternoon to pay respects to man they didn't know personally, had never met and had only ever seen on television or read about in the newspaper or on the Internet.

The people gathered outside were dedicated, orange-and-black-clad Flyers fans who wanted to say one last goodbye to the father of their favorite team, Ed Snider, who died on April 11 at his Southern California home after a two-year battle with bladder cancer.

"It's for what Mr. Snider meant to this city," Rob Rizzo of Southampton, Pennsylvania, said. "It's for what he and the Flyers represent about Philadelphia sports. What the Flyers do carries over into everything in Philadelphia. They represent fans and the people here. I figured the least I could is show up here and represent for them today."

Rizzo was one of the hundreds of Flyers fans who showed up to Snider's public memorial service to hear the likes of Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, Flyers legend and former captain Bobby Clarke and Snider's children tell stories about Snider and share memories of the man responsible for bringing the Flyers to Philadelphia when the NHL expanded from six to 12 teams in 1967.

"I just felt the need to come here and show my respect for Ed Snider and for all the things he did for the city and this great organization," Mike Smith of South Philadelphia said. "It's just about respect for him. He brought a lot of jobs to this city. So, for that, a lot of respect."

Snider was instrumental in the creation businesses such as PRISM, the first regional sports network, and Comcast Spectacor, a company that runs numerous arenas and stadiums, just to name a few of his successful business ventures.

In the sports world, Snider is most well known for founding the Flyers and being the fiery face and voice of the franchise. But he also played massive roles in the building of both the Spectrum and the Wells Fargo Center and in founding Comcast SportsNet in 1997.

"I've been a Flyers fan my entire life and we watch them all the time," said one fan from Aston, Pennsylvania, in a homemade orange, white and black tied-dyed shirt with Snider's initials - EMS - emblazoned across the front in black, just like on the jersey patch her heroes on the Flyers wear in remembrance of their late founder and chairman.

"We come to the Flyers' wives charity carnival all the time. Without Ed Snider, none of this would be possible. … I think because of his humbleness and his love for the city of Philadelphia and hockey, that's what made him so special. He's still so well-loved. That's why we're all here."

Snider was so revered among the Philadelphia faithful that he was almost always publicly referred to as Mr. Snider, even in the most causal of settings. But, as many of Thursday's speakers said while recalling Snider, the man only wanted to be called Ed.

"That's such a sign of respect," Ron Annunziano of Northeast Philadelphia said. "He was really just an everyday person. It shows how humble he was."

"It's all about respect," Rizzo said. "It's the mutual respect. The respect he had for everyone. He did this because he loved it and he made sure that was always the motivating factor - the love of the game. Everything he did, he did it for hockey. Not just for himself or for the organization. It was for everyone."

And that's what Snider, according to those who spoke Thursday afternoon to the crowd gathered in the arena's darkened lower bowl in front of the Flyers' exposed, orange flower-surrounded center ice logos, was most proud of and what his lasting legacy will be - bringing hockey to everyone and giving people a chance.

That continues to happen today through the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation, which was founded in 2005 and has helped refurbish rinks around the area and, more importantly, give underprivileged children a chance to do something fun and active while learning valuable life lessons.

No one sums up what the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation's goals are more than Virlen Reyes.

Reyes grew up in a crime and poverty-ravaged section of Philadelphia's Kensington neighborhood. She knew she needed something and at age 13, she joined the Snider Youth Hockey Foundation.

She wound up being the first member of the foundation to attend and graduate from college and even captained West Chester's women's hockey team to a national championship.

She spoke Thursday in great reverence of Snider and what he did for her.

"Before Snider Hockey, I had no hope in life. I was lost and, quite frankly, did not see a reason in living," Reyes recalled etching in a hand-written letter to Snider years back.

"Today, I can't help but think of the many other students that have experienced or will someday experience the successes both on the ice, in the classroom, and in general, all of whom Mr. Snider would be as equally proud of."

Respect and thanks were the themes of Thursday's service.

The Flyers fans in attendance took full advantage of the opportunity to do and say those things one last time to the man who gave them their favorite team.

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