If you follow the Philadelphia sports scene then you know that the 76ers and Flyers are both owned by Comcast-Spectacor, the Philadelphia-based sports and entertainment firm that is part of the multi-billion dollar, cable services and communications conglomerate known the world over as Comcast. It also holds that if you are a fan of Philly sports you also are most likely aware that Ed Snider is the Chairman of Comcast-Spectacor and the almighty executive power behind the 76ers and Flyers.
It’s no secret in Philadelphia that between his two sports franchises, Snider’s favorite son is the Flyers and the 76ers come in a distant second. We can’t say we blame Snider for his love affair with the black and orange and his heavy involvement in the organization, not at all. You see back in 1966, Snider single handily convinced the NHL to expand to Philadelphia and then gave birth to the Philly franchise by using his home as collateral on a loan that helped create the Flyers. Snider’s obvious favoritism towards the Flyers is something 76ers fans have come to expect and accept over the years.
However, it now is becoming readily apparent that Snider’s latest slight of our beloved Sixers probably cost the team the 2009-10 season and for that we are taking Mr. Snider to task.
On December 5th, 2009 the Flyers fired then head coach John Stevens, which wasn’t totally surprising as the Fly-guys change head coaches as often as most NBA players change their kicks. During the press conference, General Manager Paul Holmgren commented, “In watching the team over the past few weeks, I felt a new voice was needed to get us out of this and in the direction we expect…” At the time of Stevens’ firing, the Flyers had lost 6 of their last 7 but still owned a 13-11-1 record and were coming off a 2008-09 season in which they racked up 99 points and made the NHL Playoffs. Hockey “experts” both locally and nationally seemed divided on whether or not Stevens deserved to lose his job.
One thing is for sure, Stevens firing could not have been and easy decision for Snider and Holmgren as Stevens had been part of the Flyers family since 1984. Stevens was drafted by the Flyers in ’84. He played for the Hershey Bears and suited up for 9 games with the Flyers between 1986 and 1988. After a stint with Hartford, Stevens signed once more with the Flyers organization in 1996, and was named the first captain of its expansion farm team, the Philadelphia Phantoms. In his second season as captain, Stevens led the team to its first Calder Cup championship.
After his All-Star playing career ended in 1999, Stevens became an assistant coach with the Phantoms. One year later he became the club’s head coach. During his six season tenure as head coach, the Phantoms made the playoffs four times and won their second Calder Cup title in 2005. Stevens became an assistant with the Flyers prior to the 2005-06 season and was suddenly thrust into the interim head coach role when Ken Hitchcock was fired in October of 2006. Stevens efforts replacing Hitchcock that year won him the Flyers head coaching job. In roughly three years behind the orange & black’s bench, Stevens put together a 120-109-34 record, pushed the Flyers to the post season in each of his last two seasons and reached the Eastern Conference Finals in 2007-08. Stevens was named the Hockey News’ coach of the year after that very successful ’07-08 season.
In addition to all of their emotional history that probably made it difficult to part ways with Steven there was the business fact that he was under contract through the 2010-11 season.
Okay so what’s the point of this rather long Philly pucks history lesson? The lesson is this – Snider loves his Flyers so much and wants to see the orange black succeed so badly that he is willing to do just about anything if he believes it will improve the team and lead to more wins. This year he went so far as to fire a winning head coach with another season remaining on his contract who had been part of the Flyers organization for so long that he was / is considered by Snider and others within the organization to be “family”. Firing Stevens was a drastic, gutsy and controversial move. Fortunately for Snider it paid off as the Flyers have played significantly better since Peter Laviolette took over, they turned the 2009-10 season around and are now headed for the playoffs.
It’s a shame Snider was not willing to take such drastic measures to right the 76ers ship this year and save the 2009-10 hoops season in Philadelphia as well. During this train wreck of a season we heard numerous excuses as to why Jordan was able to hold on to his job and all of them were hard to believe. The Sixers slow start was blamed on the reintroduction of Elton Brand to the team and / or the tough task of learning the Princeton offense, not Jordan. Those excuses were followed by the claims that injuries to Louis Williams and Mo Speights were hurting the team’s progress, not Jordan. Soon after that Stefanski held a press conference to say that defense or lack of it being played was behind the Sixers ills this season and that was going to change, not Jordan. Most recently the players and their terrible attitudes were blamed, but still not Jordan. We threw our hands up in disbelief at all of these excuses as well as the idea that no one would recognize what a poor coaching job Eddie Jordan had done this season. It seemed simple enough to us, in an effort to turn this Sixers season around Jordan had to be fired.
Finally, last week we heard an excuse for why Jordan still has a job down at the Wachovia Center that actually jived with us. A source close to upper management within Comcast-Spectacor indicated to the Inquirer’s Kate Fagan that it’s possible Jordan has only survived until now because “the company already pulled the trigger on Stevens back in December” and wasn’t willing to be on the hook for two salaries belonging to two head coaches who were no longer employed by Comcast-Spectacor.
Now it all made sense. We can just see Snider and his right hand man Peter Luukko sitting in Sinder’s office back in December reviewing the mess that both the Sixers and Flyers seasons were to that point. Hypothetically speaking, Luukko had crunched the numbers and presented his conclusion to Snider that Comcast-Spectacor could only afford to unload one of their pro sports team’s head coaches, not both. That’s a no-brainer decision for Snider. The Flyers are his first love, so fire Stevens and hope that the Flyers 2009-10 season can be saved. As for the Sixers, well they and we got stuck with Jordan. Of course the season went from bad in December, straight down hill to awful in January, plummeting to un-watchable by February and then hitting rock bottom in colossal failure territory during March.
We said it earlier, with Snider and thus Comcast-Spectacor, the Flyers come first – always. We know this fact well. However, we don’t remember having as hard of a time accepting it as we did in 2009-10, because if Snider had shown the Sixers just a little love, this nightmare season could have been prevented.