Giving on the Main Line
Main Liners find unique ways to contribute.
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Ever modest about his philanthropic pursuits, Flyers chairman Ed Snider has been quietly giving for decades. Now that the Gladwyne resident has finally put his name on something near and dear to his heart, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that hockey is involved.
By J.F. Pirro
Initially, it was a long-range goal—namely, looking for land to build facilities for the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation, replete with ice (obviously), classrooms, video rooms and more. Then, last winter, another vision came into focus.
The revelation occurred one Saturday at the Scanlon Ice Rink in the Kensington section of Philadelphia. Overwhelmed by how effectively his foundation was uniting neighborhoods, Snider turned to ESYHF president Scott Tharp and questioned their priorities. Why build a new center when they could enhance the city’s neighborhood rinks instead?
“[Scanlon] is in such a perfect location, right in the neighborhood,” recalls Snider, Comcast-Spectacor’s high-profile chairman and a Gladwyne resident. “But [it was] so dilapidated, and needed such love and care. We could’ve spent money to build new, but we decided we’d rather spend it in places where we could do more good.”
Two days before the Flyers, the NHL team he founded in 1966, began the season with a win over the Carolina Hurricanes, Snider reflected on his philanthropic philosophy. That night, he attended a benefit for the Ambler-based National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, for which he’s a board member. His initial contribution made the organization viable. Snider’s ample gifts are staples at nearly every city hospital, but this charity holds a personal connection. “I had it for 50 years and didn’t know it,” says Snider of celiac disease, a digestive disorder linked to gluten in food.
Humble in his giving, Snider quietly supports some 70 causes annually. A true philanthropist, he’s never used his generosity to generate publicity. But no one example of Snider’s philanthropy is more of a source of pride than the ESYHF, a 2005 creation that offers inner-city youth the chance to learn to skate and play ice hockey.
“He is widely known for his entrepreneurial vision,” Tharp says. “More quietly, he is known as a philanthropist. It’s amazing how much he gives and how generous he is. When it comes to youth hockey, he hopes this will be his true legacy.”
Even Snider himself won’t disguise his intentions. “I do want this to be my legacy,” says the 1988 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee, who will turn 77 in January. “I want to fund it in such a way—and establish it in such a way—that it’s something that will last forever. It’s the first time I ever put my name on anything.”
You could say that Snider is the Connie Mack of ice hockey. He says it’s a comparison no one else has ever made, but he’s not uncomfortable with it. Still, he does make one request: “Just use [Mack’s] full name—Cornelius McGillicuddy,” Snider says. “I just always thought he was great.”
If Snider can carry on with the Flyers into 2016, he’ll match Mack’s 50-year legacy with the Philadelphia Athletics. Snider says he grew up with a poster of the venerable manager and owner above his bed, even though he was a Washington Senators fan. “It was just a poster of him dressed in his classic shirt and tie, and an old suit,” Snider says.
But where Mack was a penny-pincher, Snider has a three-pronged philanthropic thrust. His primary interests are at-risk children, medical research and innovation, and Jewish faith interests like the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a California-based organization that combats anti-Semitism, bigotry and prejudice of all kinds.
By and large, Snider’s philanthropy continues to fly under the radar. “It’s a way of life—a lifestyle—for the man,” says Fred Shabel, Comcast-Spectacor’s vice chairman, who heads the Ed Snider Foundation and the Comcast-Spectacor Foundation. “A lot who have a lot don’t give back. Ed has a lot and does give back. He gets his nose out of joint when he finds out we’re not doing enough for at-risk kids, those who have the capabilities but not the wherewithal. I think it’s his own family background.”