Inside the Flyers: Flyers' Ed Snider busy improving lives of inner-city kids

Ed Snider greets Kaseir Archie and other Flyers youth members at the Tarken Ice Rink in Oxford Circle, one of four rinks refurbished by the Ed Snider Youth Foundation.
Ed Snider greets Kaseir Archie and other Flyers youth members at the Tarken Ice Rink in Oxford Circle, one of four rinks refurbished by the Ed Snider Youth Foundation. (ZACK HILL)
Posted: November 12, 2012

At the same time the suits gathered in New York on Friday afternoon and continued to push the NHL (No Hockey League) closer to irrelevancy, the chairman and founder of the Flyers, Ed Snider, had more important things on his mind.

Oh, Snider hurts deeply about the labor war between the NHL and the players' union. He loves the sport to the core, has millions of dollars at stake, and would like nothing more than to see the Flyers hoist the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1975.

But the more you are around the 79-year-old Snider, the more you realize his work in bringing hockey - and more - to inner-city youths is what gives him the most satisfaction these days.

On Friday, Snider and Mayor Nutter were among those at the grand reopening of the completely renovated Tarken Ice Rink in Oxford Circle. It marked the culmination of four city rinks that have been reconstructed and fully enclosed by a public/private partnership initiated by Snider, who spent $6.5 million on the project. Snider said the state and city combined for another $6.5 million.

"We took over these rinks when the city was going to close them," Snider said. "They were dilapidated, open-air rinks and you could only use them from November to March, and even that was chancy" because of the weather.

The Ed Snider Youth Foundation has become a pillar in the community. And not just because the rinks give inner-city kids an outlet. Each rink includes newly constructed classrooms and learning labs for year-round, after-school programs, designed to help students graduate on time.

"You can't imagine the pride we all take in seeing these kids grow and seeing how they can prosper when they have the proper opportunity," said Snider, who will be honored by the Philadelphia Sportswriters Association at their Jan. 28 banquet in Cherry Hill. "They love the game and they also show up for help with their homework. They have to get good grades [to be allowed skating time], and we have a 96 percent matriculation rate of our kids, as opposed to 50-some percent in the inner city."

As for the labor negotiations, several owners have been seen at meetings in New York, but Snider has stayed away. He has trust in Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner, to work out an equitable deal.

Snider, like all NHL owners, is banned from talking about labor issues or risk getting fined $1 million.

Asked Friday if he was optimistic there would be a season, Snider deadpanned: "How's your family doing?"

In other words, he can't comment, one way or the other, on even general labor questions. We can assume he can't be happy that the NHL Players' Association has made a late push to boost revenue-sharing to $260 million, an increase from the $150 million last year. The revenue-sharing, in theory, will help the clubs that are struggling financially. More than half of it is funded by the top 10 revenue teams, which means it almost definitely would affect the Flyers.

The players' union wants the increased funds to come from the owners' pockets, not theirs. Bettman and company have been arguing for some of the money to come from the players, who will have more jobs if financially strapped franchises stay afloat.

The Flyers contributed about $6 million toward revenue-sharing last year. In the new model, it could rise to more than $10 million.

In essence, profitable franchises like the Flyers and Toronto, among others, would be helping to subsidize teams such as Phoenix, Nashville, and the New York Islanders.

For Snider, the revenue-sharing quandary - and the myriad of other issues that have caused the NHL to shut down - was not his main focus Friday. He looked like a proud new father as he watched young kids skating at one of the refurbished rinks.

"You see them graduate and have the opportunity to go to college - and a lot of them wouldn't have finished [high] school," Snider said. "When you're changing lives, I don't know what can be more satisfying."

Snider wants his work with youths "to be my legacy. I want it to go on forever."


Contact Sam Carchidi at scarchidi@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @BroadStBull.

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