What is the Ed Snider Award?

Glenn Hefferan

“We will be recognizing those real unsung heroes who provided the fundamental building blocks that have led to the advancement of so many amateur hockey participants since 1967, when Ed Snider and others brought the NHL to the Delaware Valley,” added Hefferan. “These will be the coaches, managers, administrators and actual participants who really made a difference.”

“The recipients of the Ed Snider award will be those who have contributed to the growth and development of the sport of hockey in the Delaware Valley,” announced Glenn Hefferan, President of the Atlantic Amateur Hockey Association and USA Hockey Director.

Who is eligible?

To be eligible the recipients could be either volunteers, paid persons or corporations, who have committed time and efforts to the establishment and growth of programs that have enabled greater participation, support, development and stimulation of interest in the sport of hockey for all ages throughout the Delaware Valley.

Recipients may also be corporations, or businesses, that supported the growth of the sport, enabling participants to have greater opportunities for advancement and achievement.

2023 Award Winners

Andy Abramson

Andy’s acceptance speech:

Andy Abramson, Craig Snider, and Jimmy Doyle

To say I’m humbled and honored would be an understatement. Being here tonight feels to me the same way it must have felt for the Orange Black and White as they rode up Broad Street back in 1974, when they had their first Stanley Cup victory celebration.

So if you don’t mind, allow me to take you on a journey, a journey that began over 47 years ago, just a few days after my 16th birthday.

It’s a journey that’s intertwined with the lives of many, like a compelling narrative echoing Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged,” where individuals came together to achieve greatness for a cause greater than themselves – the youth hockey community.

Picture a summer day in August 1976 when Sy Roseman called me and said Aaron Siegel told him that Ed Snider wanted to promote youth hockey, and we were to be the guys to do it.

So just as John Galt envisioned in “Atlas Shrugged,” a vision that inspired a revolution for the greater good, Ed Snider too had the vision to create a lasting impact on the youth hockey community.

He believed that if kids played hockey, they would grow up to be fans, and their parents would become fans too, ultimately building a strong fan base for the Flyers. He was right.

So in 1976, the seeds of Hockey Central were planted, later blossoming under Jay Snider, into the Flyers Office of Amateur Hockey Affairs, but that Summer night, when we all first met at The Wissahickon Skating Club, the beginning of the first-ever “fan development” organization in pro sports started, a fact often likely overlooked by many in the sports world even to this day.

So Sy, “the wiley old veteran” and “the Kid, Opie” as I was known by our Philadelphia Wings Boys of Summer brothers, we took on the challenge put before us.

Sy was my first mentor and a master wordsmith. He coined the mission statement for what Hockey Central would be all about. It was clear, credible, and compelling. It was simply these words:

“To promote, stimulate and develop interest in the sport of youth hockey in the Delaware Valley.”

It was also while I was working for the Flyers that Ed Snider began talking about the game-changing author, Ayn Rand, and her objectivist thought. So I began reading her books while still in high school, books like “The Fountainhead,” “We The Living,” “Anthem,” “The Virtue of Selfishness,” and most importantly, “Atlas Shrugged.”

In Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, the character John Galt states on a radio broadcast, “I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”

This sentiment, emphasizing individualism, can be applied to the efforts made in building Hockey Central. As we stood out as an organization, daring to be different.

It was built, not only on Ed Snider’s vision but on the collective will of a few of us, to really make a difference.

I’m referring to Aaron Siegel, Ken Gesner, and I, who from 1976-1988, had a collective will that never wavered. We never changed our goal, our direction, or our results, for just like the Flyers of the ’70s, who won two Stanley Cups. We played to win.

The goal was to nurture the passion for hockey in the youth, ensuring that they, along with their families, would grow into lifelong fans, bolstering the fan base for the Flyers. And for many years, it really did.

Throughout this journey, and over the years, I was fortunate to have those several guiding lights – Sy Roseman, Aaron Siegel, and of course, Ken Gesner – who, like extra fathers to me, mentored, guided, and truly believed in my potential. They nurtured that potential in me, from age 16 onward, allowing me to be a part of creating something magical for the youth hockey community. In the 80’s, I would add Channel 57’s General Manager, the late John Gardner, to that list.

So together, we went out and built that magical place for the youth hockey community, Hockey Central, something reminiscent of Galt’s Gulch in Ayn Rand’s masterpiece by not only generating media attention but by creating lasting programs, some of which you still have on the ice, and in the words of Jay Snider, it was in essence “the progenitor of Snider Hockey today.”

Our work and successes were only possible with the support of countless others, from Flyers players and coaches volunteering their time for youth hockey clinics to parents and players who dedicated their efforts to the sport’s growth.

My work was supported by many workers and executives, not only from the Flyers but from The Spectrum, Spectacor, Prism, and Channels 29 and 57. People you never knew, but who, for whatever reason, let my former self, from age 16-28, do things that, now looking back, built your youth hockey community that so many of you now get to enjoy.

There were many others in the youth hockey community too, and the media, all of whom made significant contributions like last years recipients Scott Chamness, Bruce Craig and Don McKee. To name them all would take longer than the time we have, but for all of you who helped, worked, and gave, we thank you for it is those collective efforts that led to the many groundbreaking initiatives you just heard Jim list.

In addition to these extraordinary individuals, numerous others played crucial roles in shaping the youth hockey landscape. So tonight, I am reminded of the importance of acknowledging and thanking those who have made a significant difference in all of our lives, not just mine.

For like the heroes in “Atlas Shrugged,” as a result of the many unthanked, unrecognized volunteers and officials, you and we have all played a part in creating a better world for the youth hockey community of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. And to them, I say thank you.

But, if it all sounded easy. Or looks easy today. Back in the 70s and 80s, it wasn’t.

Just as John Galt challenged the conventional norms of his society in Atlas Shrugged, we too, faced various obstacles and challenges in our quest to promote youth hockey.

But we persisted, and with our efforts yielded fruitful results such as the Flyers Cup, the Bobby Clarke Award, and the Pepsi Shootout.

We overcame obstacles to create the “Mites on Ice” between periods of Flyers games.

We figured out how to stage games at The Spectrum before Flyers home games.

We organized coaching clinics with the Flyers coaches, starting with Fred Shero, and got materials to coaches over the protestations of the AHAUS National Office.

We held player clinics all across the Delaware Valley, with The Flyers players and The Flyers Alumni on the ice with them, not just having them there to sign autographs.

And we sold out The Spectrum, when we had the great ones, including Bobby Clarke and Gordie Howe, return to the ice in 1988 to play the Celebrity All-Star Hockey Team, an organization that I would later serve as General Manager for, raising over $6,000,000 dollars for charities over the next ten years.

As I stand here today, I am reminded of John Galt’s words: “Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach.”

It has been 35 years since I “retired” from this part of my life, and I am deeply honored to receive this prestigious award named after one of the greatest business leaders, humanitarians, and visionaries the world has ever known in Mr. Snider.

With this award, in Ed Snider’s name, we are not letting the real hero in our souls perish, and each and every winner of this award, past, present, and future will have reached the life we deserved through our tireless efforts to promote, stimulate and develop that interest in youth hockey.

Thank you all for allowing me to be a part of this incredible journey.

Mike Richter

2022 Award Winners

Scott Chamness
Don McKee
Bruce Craig
Ron Goodman