PHILADELPHIA – It was an emotional night for Flyers Chairman Ed Snider, and usually, when he finds himself experiencing those kinds of nights, he has some stuff to get off his chest.
So it wasn’t a surprise to see him in the locker room after the Flyers impressive 3-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche waiting for the media to gather around to listen to him talk.
Of course, it started with another heartfelt tribute to Keith Allen, the legendary Flyers coach and general manager of the two Stanley Cup teams who is enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Allen died Tuesday at the age of 90 following a long battle with various illnesses.
But from there, Snider talked about the state of the Flyers, the snubbing of Claude Giroux from Team Canada in the Olympics and his disgust for the Olympics in general.
Here then, is Snider’s commentary, because really, trying to put it into a story really doesn’t do it justice. The raw interview is so much better.
Was this an emotional night for you?
“Yeah, very emotional. Keith was a dear friend and I’m just awfully sorry about how his life ended. He went through some tough times over the last several years. But I think he’s in a better place, like I said. He was a great friend and a great guy.”
What did he mean to this organization?
“He was this organization. He’s the guy that hired Fred Shero, he’s the guy that drafted the players that won the Cups for us. He is in the Hall of Fame, but despite that fact, I think he’s not gotten the kind of accolades that he deserves because I never remember a trade that he made that was a bad trade. The guy was sensational and our players loved him. He was a nice guy; he did what he had to do in the right way. I can’t say enough about him.”
How about your hockey club going into the Olympic Break and where they are right now?
“I love where we are right now. I think we’re playing extremely well. I’m excited about the team. I think our goaltending is outstanding. I think the way we’re playing and the system that Craig Berube has instituted is outstanding and I’ve got my fingers crossed. We’re going to play a lot of tough teams after the Olympic break in March, but we’re home a lot of the time and I’ve got my fingers crossed that we’ll do a good job.”
Are you surprised that Claude didn’t get picked by Team Canada?
“Well it’s a farce. He’s one of the best players in the league. It’s ridiculous. He’s better than half the guys on that team.”
Your team doesn’t have a lot of Olympic players on the top Olympic teams. Why do you think that is?
“There’s a lot of good players to pick from and I’m proud of the five guys that are on the Olympic teams. I mean, they may not be great teams, but they’re great players and they’re in the Olympics. We don’t pick them but anybody that thinks that Claude Giroux doesn’t belong on the Canadian team, they don’t know anything about hockey as far as I’m concerned. But it’s politics to a certain degree. He had to pick his own guy, and his own guy is good, but Claude is better.”
What are your thoughts about the continued participation in the Olympics by the NHL?
“If I had my way, we’d never go to the Olympics. We’re the only league that breaks up our season. Basketball plays in the winter, but they play Olympics in the summer. It’s ridiculous. The whole thing’s ridiculous.”
Is that only when it’s on the other side of the world, or any time?
“I don’t care if it was in Philadelphia, I wouldn’t want to break up the league. I think it’s ridiculous to take three weeks off or however long it is in the middle of the season. It screws up everything.”
Would you like to see a return to the World Cup format?
“I’d like to see anything other than the Olympics. I mean, I hate ‘em.”
Do you think most of the league agrees with you at this point?
“I don’t know. I haven’t taken a poll, but how can anybody be happy breaking up your season? No other league does it. Why should we?”
Originally you did it because you thought there’d be a benefit on the back end, but you haven’t seen that at all?
“There’s no benefit to us whatsoever. If anything, I can only see negatives. The players want to play. The Players’ Association has a lot to say about it. As an owner, I think it’s ridiculous.”
Was this a point of contention [during the work stoppage]?
“No. There was no point of contention. The players wanted to play and the league agreed. But as an owner, I personally don’t like it. It’s not good for our fans, it’s not good for our league, it changes the momentum… everything about it is wrong.”
You went to the Finals the last time there was a break…
“Well, maybe I like it…. I forgot about that.”
It’s hard to disagree with Snider.
After a miserable first 15 games of the season where he didn’t even register a goal, Giroux has climbed into the Top 10 in the NHL in scoring. Since early December, Giroux ranks No. 1 in the league in scoring period.
So to think that he would not be included on the Canadian Olympic team is frankly absurd. For as Snider said, he’s better than half the guys on there.
And Snider isn’t wrong about the Olympics in general. It’s a cool event and a great honor for the players to go and represent their respective countries, but to shut down the league for nearly three weeks and stifle any momentum that had been building doesn’t quite make sense, and it’s one reason I think this will be the last time the NHL participates in the Olympics for some time, maybe ever.
Oh, and the point about the Flyers being in a good spot right now, we’ll talk more about that tomorrow, but while the team still is in a dogfight for a playoff spot, confidence should be high because the Flyers have been among the elite in the NHL for three months now.
But like I said, we’ll get into that tomorrow afternoon…
NOTES: The Flyers power play has scored at least one goal in eight straight games and 14-of-17…. Michael Raffl now has three goals in the past four games and four point in the past five games. Not bad for a “fourth line” guy, eh? … The Flyers blocked a season-high 26 shots. Kimmo Timonen was credited with six blocks while Erik Gustafsson and Nicklas Grossmann blocked four apiece.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers
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