PHILADELPHIA – According to Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, Flyers’ Chairman Ed Snider likes to dream big.
If that’s the case, then what happened Friday was the culmination of a long-time dream of Snider’s that was as big as anything many kids in attendance have ever witnessed in their neighborhood.
Snider, and his Youth Hockey Foundation, were joined by Nutter and other local dignitaries at the grand re-opening of the Tarken Ice Rink in the Oxford Circle section of Philadelphia, the fourth and final rink in the four-year partnership project between Snider Hockey and the city to save public skating rinks in the inner city.
What started as an idea to teach the sport of hockey to underprivileged youths in the inner city, has grown into one of the best foundations combining recreation and learning to create a positive environment in some of the city’s toughest neighborhoods.
“Ed Snider is a great community builder,” Nutter said. “Partnering with the city of Philadelphia to save these ice rinks and to create excellent programs is all about civic engagement, looking after young people and providing support during those critical after school hours and weekends.
“Those are the most dangerous times of day for young people in America. This facility, now being used 12 months a year, is very positive and beneficial to everyone. It truly is a national model.”
Snider Hockey jumped in to save ice rinks in Kensington, West Oak Lane and Overbrook as well as Tarken in 2008 and has seen the Snider Hockey umbrella grow bigger and larger than it ever has before.
“When we took over the management of the rinks and what they looked like and how they were limited seasonally and I see what we’ve accomplished in these four, magnificent, beautiful rinks, I have a great deal of pride in having seen this happen,” Snider said. “This has become a very big part of my life and as I’ve said many times, I want it to be my legacy and I want to make sure it goes on forever. We’re taking the steps necessary to make sure that happens.”
Hundreds of neighborhood folks packed the new rink to see the opening ceremony and to be among the first to be able to skate on the new ice.
Flyers alumni Joe Watson and Gary Dornhoefer were joined by Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren and assistant general manager Barry Hanrahan to represent the organization along with Snider, while members of city council joined Nutter to represent the city.
Also on hand was state representative Dwight Evans, who was chairman of the house appropriations committee when Snider Hockey first reached out for state funds to help these projects get off the ground.
One of the rinks, Simons Recreation Center, is in Evans’ legislative district.
“I couldn’t appreciate the concept and the idea when they first presented it to me,” Evans admitted. “But now that I see the actualization of it, it warms my heart to know what this means to the youth of this city.
“To combine education with hockey really transformed lives in the inner city. I’m so happy to be a part of it.”
And Snider isn’t done.
The next steps is to expand Snider Hockey’s reach to areas outside the city of Philadelphia that could also use a hockey rink and the fine educational programs that accompany the building of that rink through Snider Hockey.
“We want to expand consistently, but we don’t want to expand too fast,” Snider said. “We want to maintain a quality product for the kids. We want to make sure we can still do a good job. But, we want to expand throughout the Delaware Valley. We want to go to places like Chester and Allentown and Camden and Pennsauken in New Jersey. We’re taking it very slowly, but in time you’ll see it grow.
“Our goal is 10,000 kids. We have 3,000 right now.”
Big dreams indeed, but no better person to make those dreams come true than Ed Snider and his Youth Hockey Foundation.
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