This is a bittersweet season for the Flyers.

Sweet because this is the 50th year since the franchise - which has been highly successful despite not winning a Stanley Cup since 1975 - began in a city that had not been a hockey hotbed.

Bitter because the man most responsible for bringing the Flyers to Philadelphia, Ed Snider, died of bladder cancer in April. Without Snider, the many events planned to commemorate the milestone season will be tinged with sadness.

The Flyers open rookie camp Monday and veteran camp Friday. The season starts Oct. 14, and it will be the first one without Snider.


"Someone posted team pictures on Facebook the other day of the various teams over the years," said Lou Scheinfeld, a Flyers vice president when the franchise was formed and a longtime friend of Snider's. "The players changed, but not the guy in the middle of the photos. Year after year after year."

Scheinfeld misses talking to Snider about hockey and politics.

"I want to call him and ask him what he thinks of [Donald] Trump and the race," he said. "He would have had a lot to say."

Wayne Simmonds, who led the Flyers with 32 goals last season, said Snider helped trigger "the start of the second wave of teams coming into the NHL" in 1967.

Simmonds said it's unfortunate Snider isn't around to celebrate the fruits of his labor, "but at the same time, he did leave a legacy. He left a great mark on the Philadelphia community and the NHL itself. So it'll be a celebration of the 50th year and Mr. Snider."

When it came to his hockey team, Snider was the ultimate optimist. He was one of the few who believed before last season that the Flyers would earn a playoff berth.

At the time, many brushed it aside as hyperbole from an out-of-touch owner.

But the Flyers, despite limitations, charged to the finish line and earned a playoff spot.

It may sound hokey and "win one for the Gipperish," but the Flyers used Snider's health battle as a rallying point last year.

They visited him in his California mansion in late December and it left a lasting impression. When they arrived home from that road trip, they were a more focused team. They saw how much Snider was ailing and it pushed them to the limit.

Up to that point, they had just a 15-15-7 record. They went 26-12-7 the rest of way and secured a playoff spot, just as Snider had predicted.

"It was tough on everyone last year. That's when guys got to see what kind of shape he was in," forward Brayden Schenn said of the team's visit with Snider. "I think, in general, guys are going to play hard . . . but he obviously cared about his players more than [most owners]. The guys realized that and played hard for him."

Added Schenn: "There will be a lot of things to honor him this year. He is the Flyers."

Snider had such a dynamic presence - whether it was in the locker room after a game, or confronting a referee about a controversial call - that even five-plus months after his death, it is difficult for Schenn and his teammates to refer to him in the past tense.

Scheinfeld feels the same way. He said it's "hard to accept" that Snider won't be sitting in his customary spot in Suite 4 at the Wells Fargo Center.

"He sat there for the past 20 years and people would always look up when we scored a pivotal goal," Scheinfeld said. "It's just going to be so strange not to see him there."

Public-address announcer Lou Nolan, who has worked for the Flyers in some capacity for all 50 years, said he was "always proud that whenever I would introduce him, he would get cheers. When you think about it, the owners of sports teams often don't hear cheers. Ed always got them. These fans got what Ed was thinking about and what he did. The fans knew that, without him, none of this would have happened. Bob Clarke wouldn't have been an MVP; he may have done it with another team, but not here. The Stanley Cups wouldn't have happened here. The Russian game wouldn't have happened. None of it. And we'd be fans of other sports.

"That," Nolan said, "is the biggest thing I take from the legacy Ed has left. He has made an indelible mark in my life."

In millions of lives, actually.