‘Teacher’ John Tortorella Getting Ingrained with Flyers, Snider Hockey, City

For new Philadelphia Flyers coach John Tortorella, it has been a hectic few days. Meetings, chats with his players, a news conference, and tons of other media obligations.

I have even managed to get involved in the community.

Tortorella spoke to numerous graduating high school seniors from various high schools Wednesday night. His South Philly visit was a surprise to the seniors, who are members of the Ed Snider Youth Hockey and Education. Their graduations were celebrated at a Wells Fargo Center ceremony.

The late Snider was the Philadelphia Flyers’ founder and the team’s long-time chairman.

Tortorella, who turns 64 on Friday, addressed the students and talked about the importance of education, telling them the lessons they learn on the ice — such as teamwork and unselfishness — should be applied to life.

“Mr. Snider, I wish he was here. I always enjoyed the interaction with him when I was coming in as a visiting coach,” he told the students. “He was a man who truly cared, so you’ve made him proud.”

Major Jim Kenney also spoke at the ceremony.

Tortorella said he was still learning about Snider Hockey. “It’s been explained to me the past couple of days,” he said. “What a fantastic organization as far as what it is doing. This group here, you carry on. You are heading into one of the most exciting times of your life in going to whatever school you are going to and getting onto the next stage.”

All of the students at the ceremony will be attending post-secondary schools in the fall.

“I’m jealous, because it’s a blast,” said Tortorella, a Boston native who attended the University of Maine. “It’s fun, you learn all kinds of life lessons. … It’s a huge step in your life, and I just wish you nothing but the best of luck.”

‘I consider myself a teacher’

The man known as “Torts” told the students “I consider myself a teacher. My daughter is a high school teacher. My son is in the Army and he’s dealing with teaching. I’m in the lockerroom, and I’m not sure what I enjoy more than developing the player or teaching and developing the person. So I’m with you. I understand some of the situations you’ve gone through. You go to school, (and) you’re at the rinks. I’m not sure where you learn more, whether it’s in the classroom, or in the locker room, or in your experiences as you’re playing and practicing. I’m not sure what is more valuable; certainly both are very important.”

Through Goals & Assists, a program that partners with Snider Hockey and the Give Back Foundation, Snider Hockey has awarded numerous college scholarships over the years.

PHN: Torts talks about the type of players he wants for Flyers

In 2005, Snider Hockey was created by the late Ed Snider, the team’s chairman. His mission from him: Build lives and unite communities. The foundation stresses hockey and education.

Tortorella said he was “absolutely honored” to attend the ceremony, and that he “feels a little part” of Snider Hockey as he learns about the organization. “We hope you make everybody proud,” he said to the students. “We hope you come back and maybe tell some of your stories as you go through it. ”

He asked students to focus on their studies “and also enjoy some of the situation you’re (in). You’re going to be able to spread your wings a little bit when you start stepping into this part of your life. Be proud of yourself. You should. Some of the roads you guys have gone through to get here — probably a little bit different than some other people — (and I want you to) feel proud about yourself. And go get ’em.”

Kenney congratulated the students and their parents. He said his father passed away three years ago and he remembers the sacrifices he made for him — including the long drives to games and practices — when he was a young hockey player in the 1970s.

Kenney said the work by the foundation is Snider’s legacy, and will continue to keep his memory alive.

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