The coming week will feature many accolades for Flyers owner Ed Snider, who passed away Monday morning in California at age 83. Snider brought hockey, and then two Stanley Cups, to Philadelphia. But before that, he was vice president and treasurer of the Eagles, from 1963-67, under Eagles owner Jerry Wolman, Snider's then-partner in the building of the Spectrum and the birth of the Flyers.
Snider's role with the Eagles ended when he and Wolman fell out bitterly, financial troubles from a Wolman construction project in Chicago allowing Snider to gain control of the Spectrum and the hockey franchise. What if Snider had been able to wrest control of the Eagles, as well?
Snider's pugnacious, fiery style would have played as well with Eagles fans as it did with Flyers fans, provided he could have done what he did in hockey -- win championships early on. The late Stan Hochman wrote a column about the Snider-Wolman feud, back in 2009, in which Hochman asked Snider about the infamous 15-year contract Wolman gave '60s Eagles coach Joe Kuharich. "That was idiotic," Snider said. "He was a lousy coach. Wolman did it on a whim. He told nobody about it before he did it."
Snider and Dick Vermeil would have been a fascinating, combustible mix.
Snider probably would have seen the need for the Eagles to have their own stadium and practice facility long before the dawning of the 21st century. On the other hand, he was extremely thin-skinned. If Ed had been the owner, and fans were bussed in to New York to boo Donovan McNabb as the first-round pick in 1999, I can picture Ed climbing over seats to take up the matter face-to-face. That might not have ended well.
Detractors will point out that Snider was terribly slow to adapt to changes in hockey, and also became impulsive, impatient and shortsighted, as he aged, that the second of those two Stanley Cups was won in 1975, which might as well be 1960, when the Eagles last won, as far as millions of fans born since then are concerned.
True, but the Flyers have been to the Stanley Cup finals six times since 1975. Have the Eagles been to six Super Bowls in that time? Have the Phillies been to six World Series? Have the Sixers made a half-dozen appearances in the NBA Finals?
We'll never know, of course, how Snider would have handled the NFL. I know he thought about it. I switched to covering the Eagles for the Daily News from the Flyers beat in 2002, after 13 seasons. After the switch, I saw Snider a handful of times, and each time, he brought up his '60s role with the Eagles. He always had the NFL's latest TV numbers on the tip of his tongue, and would shake his head over them, incredulously. Ed would have loved to have operated on the biggest stage in North American sports, and his profile would have been Jerry Jones-like.
For good or ill.
Jeffrey Lurie, who does own the Eagles these days, and whose manner is as different from Snider's as kiwi-infused Fiji Water is from Yuengling, issued a statement on Snider's passing:
"Ed was a true visionary and a pioneer who did tremendous things for our city and for the sport of hockey. He was driven by a relentless pursuit of winning and his passion for the sport was genuine. That's one of the reasons I think he was so loved and respected by the fans of our city and by his players and staff. They knew he cared just as much as they did.
"Under Ed's guidance, the Flyers became one of the most consistently successful franchises in the NHL, and he used his leadership to help foster a classy organization across the board. But perhaps more than anything, I think the legacy that Ed will leave behind is his commitment to helping young people in our city succeed in life through his youth hockey foundation. Our thoughts are with his family and the entire Flyers organization during this difficult time."