Philadelphia Flyers: Will Comcast-Spectacor Change the Team?


For almost half a century, fans of the Philadelphia Flyers have enjoyed the hands-on, win-now approach of the late Ed Snider.

The man, lovingly referred to as Mr. Snider by players and fans alike, built an orange and black legacy from the ground up when he petitioned the NHL for expansion rights back in 1966. He quickly became the face of the Philadelphia Flyers franchise, building the vaunted Broad Street Bully dynasty that won the Stanley Cup in 1974 and 1975 and orchestrating gutsy personnel moves that netted players like Eric Lindros and John LeClair.

Snider also dove headlong into the Philadelphia community, creating programs like the Flyers Wives Fight for Lives Carnival (which has run annually since 1977) and the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation. Behind the scenes, Snider’s quiet devotion to all players that have ever worn the Philadelphia Flyers sweater has been well documented.

In his 49-year tenure as the majority owner of the Philadelphia Flyers, Ed Snider did nothing less than build one of the closest relationships between a franchise and its fanbase in all of professional sports.

More from Philadelphia Flyers

Now he’s gone. And the 24 percent stake in the team he clung to even as he struggled to watch his Philadelphia Flyers compete in the 2015 playoffs from his hospital bed has finally been wrestled out of the Snider family’s control.

Comcast-Spectacor announced on Thursday it had purchased the remaining shares in the Philadelphia Flyers once held by the Sniders. The company, originally founded by Ed Snider himself, now owns 100 percent stake in the team. It has many Flyers fans worried because, after a half century of single-family ownership, the Philadelphia Flyers have officially become corporate.

Comcast-Spectacor issued the following statement in response to the move:

"“(Comcast CEO) Dave Scott will work closely with Paul Holmgren and Ron Hextall – as he has done since Snider became extremely ill a year ago – and will be the person responsible for signing off on major decisions, such as signing a free agent.We’re very confident this will work well. This is what Ed wanted. That’s the most important message. He wanted us to own 100 percent, and he wanted a smooth transition.”"

It is not surprising to see the company reassure Philadelphia Flyers fans things will remain the same as they were under Snider. But should fans take this statement at face value?

Maybe. The Philadelphia Flyers are one of the NHL’s most profitable franchises and making any sort of radical change could upset that delicate balance. Also, it appears Dave Scott had already been making most of the decisions for Mr. Snider since at least early last season.

Of course, things could also go the way of a few other NHL franchises that found themselves under corporate control.

The Anaheim Ducks came into the league in 1992. The Disney Company owned a 100 percent stake in the team and basically used it throughout the 90s as a marketing gimmick for their popular movie franchise The Mighty Ducks. It wasn’t until Henry and Susan Samueli bought the team in 2005 that they made the transformation into a respectable franchise set on winning Stanley Cups.

After years of futility both on the ice and in the bank book, the NHL took control of the Phoenix Coyotes in 2009 after then-owner, Jerry Moyes faced bankruptcy and failed to move the franchise to Ontario. The team was eventually sold to IceArizona Acquisitions in 2013 and promptly moved out of Phoenix and was renamed the

Arizona Coyotes. New logos and uniforms are forthcoming after the 2016 NHL season.

A management group lead by Alan Cohen bought the Florida Panthers from original owner Wayne Huizenga in 2001. They changed the front office structure and watched from afar as the Panthers missed the playoffs in eight of the next 10 seasons. In 2013, billionaire Vincent Viola bought the team and changed the culture. He signed a 13-year extension to the BB&T Center and encouraged GM Tom Rowe to spend in free agency. In fact, the team just signed seven players this past offseason including star defenseman Keith Yandle. Winning is once again the focus in Florida.

For the Philadelphia Flyers, the future certainly looks bright from a talent perspective. The team is fresh off a playoff berth in 2015 and the prospect stream looks to be rich over the next few years. The Philadelphia Flyers fans base is much larger than any of the three teams I just mentioned, and it’s not one that generally tolerates a franchise owner (or corporation) who’s asleep at the wheel.

Next: A Detailed Look into Ron Hextall’s Plan

It seems very likely the legacy Ed Snider built and the relationships he fostered within the city of Philadelphia will be more than strong enough to keep the Philadelphia Flyers culture intact. Still, it’s a situation fans of the Philadelphia Flyers will want to monitor as the franchise sets off into the future without the only family it has ever known.