THE ROOF would leak, causing the jagged, unusually gray ice to puddle up and become uneven in certain areas of the rink.

Most of all, Thomas Brown remembered the bitterly cold wind that would rip through the damp, open-air Laura Sims Skate House in West Philadelphia.

"I would be so cold that my entire body would be numb," said Brown, standing in the city-owned hockey rink at 63rd and Walnut in Cobbs Creek.

Those memories are what made yesterday so hard to believe. There he was, standing side by side with Flyers chairman Ed Snider, Mayor Nutter and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and nearly 50 participants in the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation for a ribbon-cutting at the newly redesigned rink.

After a $6.5 million commitment from Snider to match the Commonwealth's Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, the Skate House's ugly, aging facade is about the only thing unchanged in the gleaming new, enclosed rink that would rival the practice facilities of most NHL teams.

Yesterday's ceremony marked the completion of renovations for the first of all five of the city's ice rinks that were saved from condemnation during last year's budget cuts by a 20-year agreement between Snider Hockey and the city.

Now, in addition to having all five rinks enclosed by 2012 to allow year-round operation, the neighborhood rinks will allow Snider Hockey to double its current capacity of 2,500 children in its after-school programs.

"This is absolutely spectacular," Snider said. "We had seen it in the plans, and watched it come together, but to see this all come to fruition, it has exceeded my wildest dreams. It's so great for these kids. They don't have these types of things. This is a place for them to come.

"And it's not just about hockey. Hockey is the hook, but we have phenomenal education programs. We teach these kids life skills and help them with their homework."

Having grown up just six blocks away, Brown never even dreamed of playing hockey before joining the program in 2006 as a 12-year-old. Now it is his life. He is a freshman goaltender for the club team at Penn State's Berks campus.

Brown said Snider Hockey pushed him to succeed, with its after-school tutoring and academic monitoring, where students must turn in report cards and show progress and consistency in order to remain involved. The program, founded 5 years ago, has a 97 percent matriculation rate. Snider donated more than $13 million of his own funds to found it and continues to match every $1 donation with $2 of his own money.

"Joining the program was one of the best decisions of my life so far," Brown said. "It's introduced me to a world that I probably would have never known. Through Snider Hockey, I have a new family. Along the way, I traveled to Detroit, New York and Canada. It's challenged me to do the right thing all the way."

Snider was lauded by Bettman for partnering with Nutter and the city council to strive to do more for the community. Nutter said it was unfortunate that the rest of the city's recreation facilities don't all look like the new Sims Skate House.

"In a lot of ways, this building is a first of its kind," Bettman said. "We have our Hockey is for Everyone program, but Ed Snider has been so dedicated to giving back to the community. You're starting to see teams in other cities catch on, but not yet to this scale. That stems from the passion that he has for both hockey and this city."

Watching the next wave of Snider Hockey participants cut the ribbon, Brown's only bittersweet moment was realizing that he couldn't take advantage of the new facility.

"Figures, as soon as we graduated, they started building this brand-new arena," Brown said with a smile. "The program has been my main motivation for everything in life, not only hockey. I don't think I'd be in this place now without the program."

Pronger out, Jagr back

Captain Chris Pronger did not make the trip to Long Island with the Flyers and will remain sidelined with a virus tonight against the Islanders. Pronger was at the Flyers' Skate Zone yesterday but did not practice.

Jaromir Jagr plans to return to the lineup tonight after missing the two games with a groin strain. Jagr, 39, has 17 points this season.

"At my age, missing a game feels like missing 1 year of your life," Jagr said, smiling. "You don't know how many you have left."

Braydon Coburn, who missed Monday's game with an upper-body injury, skated but said he is awaiting clearance from a doctor before being able to return. Since the Flyers reassigned Kevin Marshall to Adirondack yesterday, Coburn appears likely to play.

Brayden Schenn was activated from the long-term injured reserve yesterday after missing the last 4 weeks with fractured foot. He was sent back to Adirondack with Marshall. Defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon remained with the team and forward Harry Zolnierczyk was recalled from ECHL Trenton. Both are expected to play tonight.

Lindros, LeClair team up

Former "Legion of Doom" linemates Eric Lindros and John LeClair are teaming up once again, this time to help raise money and spirits at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

In advance of the Flyers' alumni matchup against the Rangers' alumni on New Year's Eve at Citizens Bank Park, Lindros and LeClair will host a meet-and-greet luncheon Dec. 15 at Morton's Steakhouse in Center City. Cost is $250 per person, with all proceeds going to CHOP. To sign up, visit They also will hold a public signing from 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 16 at the Granite Run Mall in Media.

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