Six years ago,
The team's participation, according to Snyder's mom, LuAnn, "Was important to our family, but also to all of the people here in the community. It is a christening (of the facility) for us."
The time in between is what has proved so poignant. The grace and humanity of the Snyder family in embracing
As Thrashers' Executive VP/GM
No matter whom I spoke with, the vibe was the same -- nothing but glowing, positive responses. The only things brighter were the wide-eyed smiles of each and every youth player that was at the rink, getting a glimpse of an NHL team in their town, on their ice. And that is what is amazing about the life and death of Dan Snyder. So much goodwill has spread in the wake of what was a terrible event.
Dan wanted to give back to his town and had hoped to be behind one day getting a new sheet of ice put down for the kids growing up. Snyder's father, Graham, took to making sure that his son's goal didn't die with him. They set up a foundation in his name and held an annual golf outing to raise funds for a new rink. From the Snyder family's passion and compassion, the project grew exponentially. The county of Woolwich got involved and soon a single sheet of ice turned into a two-sheet facility with a pool, gym and senior center.
The price tag rose to over $22 million, of which the small town of Elmira raised over $5.5 million all by itself, with 10 percent coming directly from the five-year golf outing plan. Beyond the politics, planning and funding, though, it is truly an impressive facility, made all the more so in how it came to be. A community benefits for years to come while a family's focus in the near term helps them heal.
Yes, they built a rink -- a feat in and of itself. But the real story is the journey the Snyder family has taken us all on, from heartbreaking to heartwarming, improbable to indelible -- a goal achieved and a legacy taking on a life of its own.