Snider and team president Bob Clarke took part in a management show of solidarity yesterday, sitting alongside Gary Bettman as the NHL commissioner postponed the start of play for at least two weeks.
The season will begin Oct. 15, according to the owners, only if a new collective-bargaining agreement is reached with the players or if there is substantial good-faith bargaining toward one.
Snider has run the Flyers since the team's inception as an expansion franchise in 1967. He became majority owner in the 1970s and is the patriarch among Philadelphia sports franchise owners. But for Snider, that 27-year affiliation may be coming to an end.
"It's been a gradual thing. I've been thinking about it as the financial aspects have deteriorated," Snider said. "I can't continue operating at a loss. We're losing millions of dollars right now."
Snider said the Flyers had revenues of more than $30 million last season, but had an operating loss of about $3 million.
"If we go this whole season without hockey, it will cost me a fortune,"
Snider said. "The stakes are very high for me, and why would I want to do this to myself? Don't people un-
derstand that we're not suicidal? Owners in sports would not be looking for new ways of doing business if there was not a major, major problem."
According to a report in Financial World magazine in April, the Flyers were worth $58 million on the open market a year ago and are worth $69 million now.
Even Clarke, who first met Snider when Clarke was taken in the 1969 draft, wouldn't be shocked if the team changed hands.
"If we don't get an agreement that's fair for all teams, I would recommend for him to sell if I was advising him," said Clarke. "He's a man who has everything invested. I can't work for a man and tell him that he should be losing money. That doesn't make any sense."
The Flyers are only one tentacle of the Spectacor conglomerate, which also includes the Spectrum, SpectaGuard, Ticketmaster and other Snider holdings.
Because Snider's companies often transfer money from one pocket to the other - the Flyers paying rent to use the Spectrum, for instance - the players' union has looked at the Flyers' operating loss and those of other teams with a jaundiced eye.
"You really don't know how much they're making," Flyers union representative Mark Recchi said this week. "You can change it. The Toronto Blue Jays' guy said give me a half-hour and I can change an $8 million profit into an $8 million debt. It's amazing what they can do. How much are they making? We'll never know."
Snider was adamant yesterday that not only is the team losing money, but that the players' union doesn't really care.
"I believe the whole structure has gotten out of whack," Snider said. ''As businessmen, we know where we're heading if we continue the way we are now. We're signing our own death warrants. Why do that? If we're going to die, let's die fighting.
"The fans have the burden of all this mess and (NHLPA executive director) Bob Goodenow couldn't care less about the fans. He came in and went over our books several years ago and his answer is, 'You're hiding the money in the arena and the hot dogs and everything else.' I'm telling
you, Bob Goodenow has a plan and it's not to help hockey. He feels he has a mandate and that mandate is to stick it up our a-- waiting, and that's exactly what he's doing."
Bettman characterized Snider as a "real good owner who runs a real good team," but could also understand why Snider would consider selling the team.
"It tells you a lot," Bettman said. "It tells you that if these owners are going to invest in the business, it's got to make sense and you have to believe there's a future. My goal is to show there's a future in this game as a business."
Although it was short notice, following a Thursday evening conference call among the league's owners and Bettman, representatives of 20 of the league's 26 teams were in New York yesterday for Bettman's news conference.
"We wanted to make sure the players knew this was a proposal of all 26
clubs in this league," Snider said. "The players have not come to the table to try to help us out, to try to make the game affordable for the fans. This is about the fans. We can't continue to raise salaries 30, 40, 50 percent a year and stick it to the fans.
"If the players really want to get a deal done, we can get it done in two weeks. If not, I'm willing to throw out the season. I'm willing to throw out two seasons or three seasons. I don't want to stay in the game, if I'm losing money."
But taking Ed Snider from the top of the Flyers organization would be like taking Billy Penn from the top of City Hall. Can Snider really imagine selling the Philadelphia Flyers?
"I can't imagine me sticking around for this mess," Snider said.