By Jack McCaffery
PHILADELPHIA >> It may or may not have been one of his last wishes, but given the history of the Flyers and the NHL, Ed Snider was provided with a significant tribute Monday.
That's when the league, through the commissioner, finally admitted: Yes, it will miss the Flyers' chairman, who died last week at age 83, after all.
“The NHL family, and by that I mean all of the clubs, the players, the fans, especially here in Philadelphia, have suffered a huge loss,” Gary Bettman said before the Flyers-Capitals playoff game. “There is no other way to put it: Ed was a dynamic visionary who turned Philadelphia into one of the great hockey towns in the world.”
Surely, decades-long wounds had healed since Snider ordered the Flyers to become violent then unleashed the Broad Street Bullies upon the sport. Indeed, Snider and Bettman had a strong professional and personal relationship. But at that time, and for long after, Snider was known to suspect that there was a resentment of his franchise trickling from the league office literally onto the referees' whistles.
The proof was scarce, if existent at all. Snider was elected to the Hall of Fame. He won the tug-of-war for Eric Lindros. And the Flyers assimilated into a newer NHL, still trending toward cantankerous, yet far from brutal.
“He was passionate about everything he did,” Bettman said. “Everything he did was first-class. He believed in excellence. And his team, the Flyers and his arenas were always, in his mind, to provide the best possible fan experience.”
As expected, the Flyers presented an appropriate pregame tribute to Edward Malcolm Snider Monday, in their first home game since his death. Behind each net the initials “EMS” were painted. A tribute flag hung from the wall outside. All fans were given orange tee-shirts with a Flyers logo decorated with Snider's silhouette.
All of it was moving.
That included the commissioner lamenting the loss of the father of the Broad Street Bullies.
“On a personal level, I’m going to miss him,” Gary Bettman said. “He was a very close friend. And the league is going to miss him, much as the fans here in Philadelphia, not just the Flyers.”