The Phone Call From Ed Snider that Terry Murray Will Never Forget
Terry Murray’s phone rang in the middle of last summer, after he’d been hired as an assistant coach with the Buffalo Sabres.
He immediately recognized the voice on the other end. Ed Snider, after all, had been part of the soundtrack of Murray’s life for much of the last 40 years.
The new job meant Murray was stepping down as head coach of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, bringing to a close his sixth or seventh stint with the Flyers’ organization, depending on how you want to add up his time as player, coach and scout.
Murray knew the Flyers’ legendary chairman was sick, battling cancer for the second time. But Snider wanted to focus on Murray, to ask about his family and thank him for everything he’d done for the organization over the years.
“He just wished me luck,” Murray, 65, said during a phone interview today. “He said, ‘We’ve been around each other for a long time.’ It was the same kind of conversation we had back in the 1970s. He was the same person, and had the same genuine caring for you as a Flyer and your family.”
After Snider’s family announced on Monday that the sports and business mogul had died at his California home at the age of 83, Murray’s thoughts drifted back to their summertime conversation. Snider had always treated his employees like family, but in hindsight, the phone call now felt more significant. “Just to know that Mr. Snider was thinking of me at that difficult time in his life made it even more special,” he said.
Murray joined the Flyers as a defenseman in 1975, when the team was fresh off its second straight Stanley Cup championship. The roster was loaded with swagger. Everywhere Murray looked, he saw legendary players. And in the middle of it all was Snider, the wealthy visionary who’d brought hockey to Philadelphia.
“It was almost overwhelming at the time. The culture in that place, the camaraderie … and then you end up meeting the owner,” Murray said. “But he was just an average guy, saying ‘Hey, how you doing? Tell me a little about your family.’ It was just a real, casual, heartfelt welcome to the team.”
Murray, like most players who have suited up for the Flyers in one era or another, never cut ties with the organization. He was hired as the team’s head coach in 1994, when construction had begun on what would become the Wells Fargo Center. “One thing Mr. Snider said was, ‘Well, I got a new building going up, and we’re going to be in the finals … when that building is ready,” Murray said.
The arena opened in 1996; Murray guided the Flyers to the Stanley Cup finals a year later, but the team lost to the Detroit Red Wings. Snider was a live wire during that ill-fated playoff run. “The team had been out of the playoffs for five years,” Murray noted.”But it was a great feeling. I would have loved to win a cup for Mr. Snider.”
Murray was fired after the series, but that didn’t sour his relationship with Snider. He went on to head-coaching gigs in Florida and Los Angeles, but returned to the Flyers after those jobs ended. The door to Philly was always left open.
“Once you’re a Flyer, you’re always a Flyer. Even if you played just one game, you’re a part of that family,” he said. “I think there are only a few pro sports teams, in any sport, that have that wonderful feeling of, ‘This is where I belong.’ And that goes back to Mr. Snider.”
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