Chris Snow was a data man. But there aren’t any metrics that can measure the impact the late Calgary Flames assistant general manager had on the people whose lives he touched.
“It’s sad, you know, you’re losing a good friend,” said Craig Conroy, Calgary Flames general manager and Snow’s longtime friend.
“We were hoping to do this in about 25 years. That’s what we used to talk about. So to be here today, it’s way too soon. But I know the battle he put up so I’m going to go in and kind of say our last goodbyes.”
Conroy was among the hundreds of people who filled the pews at St. Michael Catholic Community for Snow’s memorial service on Thursday, with another 1,000 watching online.
Snow passed away on Sept. 30 after a nearly five-year battle with ALS.
He was 42 years old.
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Snow is survived by his wife, Kelsie, and their children, Cohen and Willa.
“Chris shared his vulnerability and his story with the world,” Kelsie said during the service.
“But mostly, he shared those things with the three of us. And along the way, his courage, his determination to see the beauty in life, and his unwavering optimism became ours. His strength made us strong. His gratitude showed us how to be grateful, and his joyfulness in the face of the most dire circumstances showed us how to find reasons to smile even when we are broken.
“His voice plays in our minds and in our hearts now and forever. We walk forward with his light guiding our way.”
Snow was diagnosed with a genetic form ALS in 2019 and given six to 12 months to live, vowing to do whatever brought him joy with whatever time he had left.
And he did, making the most of time with family and channeling his passion for analytics at his office in the Saddledome.
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Former Flames General Manager Brad Treliving spoke about Snow’s unusual rise from sportswriter to data whiz and how Snow fought for the job he loved as the disease progressed.
“He said: ‘Do not take this away from me. You have to trust me. Yes, I’m not going to miss anything with my family, but I’m not going to sit at home and look at my four walls all day,’” Treliving said. “‘The kids are in school. Am I just going to sit there and think about this disease? I need this. I need to keep my mind active. This does bring me joy. This is my passion.’”
Treliving credits Chris with laying the foundation for Calgary’s data and analytics department, much to the chagrin of then-President of Hockey Operations Brian Burke.
“I would drive him nuts. I would say: ‘I don’t care about that. I don’t care what the percentage is’… It drove him nuts that there were still stone age approaches to this,” Burke recalled with a laugh. “But we came to rely on him. If we had a deal we thought we were going to do and we went to Snow and he said don’t do it, we would not do deals. He had that much authority.”
Speakers at the memorial service paid tribute to Snow’s beaming smile, Boston brashness and an ineffable quality that seemed to simply draw people in.
Perhaps that’s part of why Snow’s story resonated with so many people who didn’t know much about ALS, but took the time to learn about it, share in the triumphs and setbacks of the Snows’ journey and joined the #SnowyStrong movement.
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More than half a million dollars has been raised for ALS research thanks to the Snow family’s efforts, a total any numbers guy would be proud of.
“Just class and dignity and you’re talking about a horrible disease that took a long time to reach its conclusion,” Burke added. “This is a guy that fought like a tiger.”
Kelsie, Cohen and Willa received a standing ovation as they dropped the puck for Calgary’s season-opener against Winnipeg on Oct. 11.
Cohen also fist-bumped the Flames before and after their warmups, and, sporting a wide smile reminiscent of his dad’s, received a signed jersey from captain Mikael Backlund reading: ‘Thanks for being there on my first game as Captain.’
“I know it was an emotional thing for Kelsie and I could tell it wasn’t going to be easy,” Conroy said. “We’ve had all the different ceremonies, but that was by far the best.”
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