I originally was going to write/share this week, about my 2nd run as a back-up, off-ice official for the Chicago Wolves - and then I looked at the calendar.
To some it was just another Tuesday. A day in which we woke up, got dressed and went on with our daily lives. For a family in Elmira, ON., it was however a day of remembrance - a son, brother, grandson, nephew had lost his life. Seven years ago, on October 5, 2007, Dan Snyder had passed away.
If you hadn't followed the Chicago Wolves (AHL) or the Atlanta Thrashers (NHL) or if you are just new to the sport, you may not know much about Dan. Dan went undrafted and was signed by the Thrashers in 1999. Before hitting the big league, he spent time in the juniors and made it to the now defunct, Orlando Solar Bears (IHL). When the IHL finally closed its doors, the remaining six IHL teams move to a different league - AHL - American Hockey League. With that move, Dan now was a member of the Chicago Wolves, as they were now affiliated with the Thrashers. Dan won back to back championships - Orlando ('00-'01) and Chicago ('01-'02). When the Thrashers came looking for Dan, in the '02-'03 season, he scored 10 goals, 4 assists in 36 games.
Dan was an original. One of the best memoriesI have is at the annual celebrity serve where the players trade in their skates and sticks for aprons for charity. This memorable event was at the restaurant Max N Erma's. Players started out by selling raffle tickets for prizes and Dan was working the room with his charm - I think he managed to get $300 from our table alone! The players were issues "Get Fed by the Wolves" t-shirts that would later go up for auction. The cleaner the shirts the better right!? Not so much.....
Let me set the stage for you- Max N Erma's is a family restaurant and is known for their ice cream sundae bar which is self service for the patrons. One player is the MC and stands next to the player whos shirt is up for auction. The MC does his best rendition of an auctioneer for his teammate. Both players are right next to the ice cream sundae bar.... got visual yet?? :) Well, the bids started out slow, $50 here and $50 there for a t-shirt - again all for charity. Dan decided to kick it up a notch - Dan took a heaping spoonful of fudge topping from the sundae bar and dumped it on his teammate, Ben Simon. That riled up the crowd up and egged the players on more! Ben returned the favor by dumping caramel topping on top of Dan's head. Next in line - strawberry, pineapple toppings, whipcream, nuts and of course a cherry! What kind of a sundae would it be without the cherry!? And for an encore, Dan and Ben pulled the Wolves Community Relations Director into the mix and made a sundae out of her as well! Classic Dan.
Dan always said when he makes it big he wanted to give back to his home town of Elmira; to build an arena for the next generation of hockey players that would come from that town. A new arena for the Sugar Kings (Junior B) Hockey Team. That dream finally came to life. For the five years following Dan's passing, the town of Elmira, ON., family, friends, former teammates came together for four days to remember Dan at the Dan Snyder Charity Golf Outing. The projected date of completion for the new centre was scheduled as far out as 2017, for belief it would take that long to raise the amount of money to fund the project. Dreams work in mysterious ways as they say and enough funds were raised during those five years. The projected date of 2017 was written off the books and the Woolwich Memorial Centre was opened in September 2009. Two pads are located at the centre with the main rink named in Dan's memory - The Dan Snyder Memorial Arena. As a player, you see "SNYDER" written from floor to ceiling as you enter the ice surface, it can't be missed. One month after the opening of the centre, the Atlanta Thrashers hosted a practice/promotional session there so the town could meet the team and the family.
I was fortunate to see Dan play in Orlando, Chicago and Atlanta (ATL via Center Ice). I experienced first hand the "sundae experience" and had the honor of volunteering at the first memorial golf outing and golfing in the last four. We didn't get a chance to golf the weekend of the opening but we did celebrate Dan's life and his dream. The hard work, time and money to make the dream a reality almost seemed surreal; yet there we were with the Snyder family, at the ribbon cutting ceremony.
Dan's dream had finally come true...
Snydes- Forever in our hearts