Ed Snider leads hockey hall inductees

PHILADELPHIA -- With his team in first place and the Winter Classic coming to town, it's a good time to be Ed Snider.

The Philadelphia Flyers founder and owner is set for a more personal honor: Snider will be inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday.

Snider brought hockey to Philadelphia, owned the Flyers during the days of the Broad Street Bullies and their rough-and-tumble heyday, and still takes his seat each home game to watch Claude Giroux and Jaromir Jagr lead this season's team to the top of the Eastern Conference standings.

The Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation has also thrived, providing free hockey and academic services to inner-city children. He calls the program his legacy -- even greater than what he's done with the Flyers since the 1960s.

For all his accolades, Snider still appreciates the Hall of Fame honor.

"These honors are nice and I'm proud to be part of it," he said.

Snider will be inducted Monday night in a ceremony in Chicago with longtime NHL defenseman Chris Chelios, play-by-play announcer Mike "Doc" Emrick, and former NHL stars Keith Tkachuk and Gary Suter.

"He's one of the few people in hockey who literally created a market for hockey," Comcast-Spectacor president Peter Luukko said. "There was no hockey in Philadelphia. He created that and grew the sport unlike many people ever."

Snider's next big weekend comes over New Year's when the Flyers play the Rangers in the Winter Classic, the league's annual international showcase. There's a star-studded alumni game that includes former Flyers greats like Eric Lindros and Bernie Parent, and their AHL team also hits the outdoor rink at baseball's Citizens Bank Park.

HBO's "24/7" cameras have been rolling at recent games, filming Snider during last week's win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"The game is a league production, so we don't have that much to do with it," Snider said. "We do have a lot to do with the alumni game, which is really big, and a few other events we're really involved in. Luckily, I don't have to do too much but show up.

"Who would have ever thought when I started the Flyers in 1967 we'd be playing a Winter Classic in any baseball stadium."

In Philadelphia, the alumni game has received Stanley Cup finals-type buzz because of Lindros' return after a nasty split with the organization a decade ago. He clashed with management, specifically general manager Bobby Clarke, over treatment of his numerous head injuries. Snider had little interest in rehashing the Lindros Era, saying it was current general manager Paul Holmgren's decision to invite Lindros, and, "we're happy about it."

Snider, the NHL's longest-tenured owner, supported the radical realignment plan announced last week that will give the league four conferences instead of six divisions and guarantee home-and-home series among all teams. The Flyers will be lumped in a seven-team conference with the Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes.

"Obviously, we preferred the way it was, but we knew that it would hurt a lot of teams if we continued with the status quo," Snider said. "There were some features about this new system that we liked, therefore, we supported it to help some of our fellow owners. The game's better than it's ever been and I'm very happy right now with everything."

That includes the Flyers. Their 5-2 victory over Tampa Bay on Saturday night kept the revamped team (18-7-3 for 39 points) atop the East standings.

"I think it's been really satisfying considering all the injuries we've had and all the new players and rookies we have," he said. "It's been a very exciting start of the season. I hope we can keep it up.

"It looks like a very exciting team."