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The Last Sports Mogul

Excerpt 2: Ed Snider, Future Flyers Owner, Discovers Hockey

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Ed Snider, Keith Allen, Philadelphia Flyers
Ed Snider and Keith Allen, who coached and later was the Flyers' GM, during the team's early years. Photo courtesy of Alan Bass.

Second in a series of excerpts from “Ed Snider: The Last Sports Mogul,” written by Alan Bass and published by Triumph Books. This excerpt, which shows how the Philadelphia Flyers were put on Snider’s radar, is from Chapter 4.

Snider and The Gumper

Almost immediately upon hearing this news [that the NHL was planning to add six teams], Snider was hit with two prominent memories. In the early 1960s, during his days running Edge Limited, he was in New York City having a cocktail with Juggy Gayles, a sales manager for Carlton Records and a business friend of Snider’s. Instead of dinner, Gayles opted for a hockey game, which his counterpart knew nothing about. Having never seen a hockey game in his life, Snider was curious at best, if not somewhat uninterested, to see the Montreal Canadiens play the New York Rangers in Madison Square Garden. When the puck dropped, he was stricken and fell in love with the game — specifically the play of Rangers goalie Gump Worsley, a Hall of Fame talent in the prime of his career. The bulky goalie, standing at 5-foot-7 and 180 pounds, did not look like a typical athlete, which stunned Snider, whose familiarity with athletics was more from football than any other sport. He loved that Worsley looked like a typical fan off the street, rather than a chiseled athlete, along with the fact that he played without a mask, giving the crowd full view of their superstar. Although Snider didn’t attend another hockey game for quite some time, that memory remained in the back of his mind.

Another seed planted

A few years after that first game, while visiting Boston as a member of the Eagles, Snider went to Boston Garden with a friend to see his hometown 76ers play the Celtics in an NBA matchup. While exiting the arena, he turned his head to see hundreds of fans lined up at the box office. He asked his friend what they were waiting for, to which he learned that the NHL’s Bruins put 1,000 tickets on sale each game-day morning. What shocked Snider even more was that the Bruins, at the time, were in last place. Unbeknownst to the Eagles executive, hockey was the hottest ticket in Boston. Even legendary Celtics’ coach Red Auerbach used to publicly complain. “The Bruins open the door, and the Boston Garden fills up every night they play,” he told the Miami Herald in 1966. “We keep winning titles and have to hustle and scratch to draw a sellout crowd.”

… With the Eagles financially healthy and a new football-baseball stadium a potential reality (what would eventually become Veterans Stadium), these memories had Snider turning his attention to the other section of the swampy stretch of land, the spot across Pattison Avenue, next to the decrepit, nearly abandoned JFK Stadium. Snider was intrigued when Putnam told him of the league’s expansion plans. Like the rest of the sports world, he knew major league hockey was often closed off to outsiders.

… [Snider] ran into Wolman’s office to explain what he thought was a gold mine of an idea. Wolman had the construction contacts and Snider had the ear of the higher-ups at City Hall. The Eagles owner was ecstatic at the prospect of creating a new building and sports franchise (hello, Philadelphia Flyers) and wholeheartedly agreed with his vice president’s plan. Wolman put Snider in charge of the project, but kept his own name as the headliner. He assumed, and accurately so, that since he was the more well-known among the two, it would increase the project’s prospects for success.

Excerpt 1: Flyers Co-Founder Ed Snider is ‘The Last Sports Mogul.’

“Ed Snider: The Last Sports Mogul” is available here. It is also available at local Barnes & Noble stores.

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