ED SNIDER HAS been on the Flyers watch since Day 1. From assembling an NHL expansion team, through the Stanley Cup years, to this year's relentless team, Snider has seen it all.

As the Flyers attempt to win their first Stanley Cup since the 1974 and '75 back-to-back championships, Snider says he's pretty much the same person now as then: He's still driven to win.

"Personally, I'm not different, except I'm a helluva lot older," the 77-year-old chairman said, laughing. "I'm much more cognizant of how hard it is to get to the finals, much less win a Cup. There's 30 teams trying to do the same thing.

"The competitive edge is not quite as great as it used to be because in the old days we could do what we wanted to do, there was no [salary] cap. It depended on how smart we were as far as trades, etc. Today, everybody's smart, everybody has top-notch people, everybody's scouting properly."

As most people grow older, they mellow, at least a little. Asked if he's more patient now, Snider says, "I've been forced to be a little more patient. But if I lost the passion and drive, I would definitely retire. A lot of friends think I'm nuts [to continue working].

"If the people around me think I'm slipping, and I'm not good at it any longer, then I'll have to face up to it. I believe that no matter how old you are, you have to keep your mind working as well as your body. I work out regularly and play tennis regularly."

Snider notes that the current Flyers and the Stanley Cup teams are not that similar.

"When we won the first two Cups, we had the best or second-best record in the league," he says. "We had a goaltender [Bernie Parent] that was spectacular, we had a lot of star players and we were extremely tough. We expected to do well in the playoffs.

"Did I expect to win the Stanley Cup? No, but it was a thrill to win it.

"This year, we had an up-and-down year, we had injuries, we had goaltending issues. We got in [the playoffs] on a shootout. There was no real expectation. Never in my wildest imagination did I feel we were going to be in the Stanley Cup finals, being the seventh seed.

"[Then] we went down to Boston three games to none, and three goals to none in Game 7. We've been the underdog in each series. This has been a roller-coaster ride like I've never seen before."

At an age when many people are relaxing on their porches, Snider is still going strong, just like his team. *

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