Snow shares Flames promotion with family
Six months after complications from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) left him on a ventilator, fighting for his life in the intensive care unit of a Calgary hospital, Chris Snow is hard at work in his new increased role in the Flames’ front office.
His promotion to vice-president of data/analytics and assistant general manager of the Flames was one of Craig Conroy’s first acts as the team’s new general manager following Brad Treliving’s resignation in May.
Conroy and Snow had worked together since Conroy retired as a player in 2011 and joined Calgary’s front office as a special assistant to then-general manager Jay Feaster.
Snow, a former sports journalist for the Boston Globe and Star Tribune in Minnesota, joined the Flames in 2011 and was initially tasked with building out the organization’s advanced stats and analytics resources. Since then, he has steadily become a central figure in the front office.
“I thought it was the right thing to do and it’s well deserved,” Conroy said. “People don’t get to see what happens behind the scenes, but he’s a huge, huge part of this. He thinks differently…it’s good to bounce ideas back and forth. He’s very creative.”
Snow was diagnosed with ALS in 2019, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. ALS gradually paralyzes people by preventing the brain from communicating with the muscles of the body.
Snow currently uses a feeding tube and has lost some function in his limbs. He also has challenges with verbal communication.
Snow was in his office prepping for amateur scouting meetings when he was told of the promotion and immediately credited his wife, Kelsie.
“Her self-sacrifice is off the charts,” he said.
As meaningful as the new promotion is for Snow, it might be that much more impactful for his two children, Cohen and Willa.
“It was the holiday Monday, so the kids were out of school and came down to the rink with [Kelsie] to get me. I was able to tell them all at once. My daughter surprised me with her excitement. My son squeezed me long and tight.
“My kids are very protective of me and want people to see me as fully capable. They saw this as that sort of validation.”
Under Treliving, Snow negotiated several contract extensions with agents. He collaborated with Ritch Winter, who represents current Calgary forward Andrew Mangiapane and former Flames captain Mark Giordano, multiple times on their deals. Winter lauded Snow for his preparation in those discussions.
“He’s always been challenging to deal with because he is prepared,” Winter said. “He brings a perspective that’s based deeply and effectively in analytics. I don’t usually agree with it, as you can imagine, but there’s really been no slowing down in his ability to do the job…I’m really happy that he’s been recognized for soldiering through and doing a good job.”
Wells Oliver, now the San Diego Padres’ director of baseball systems, was one of Snow’s first hires with the Flames after the two met at the 2012 winter meetings in Nashville. Oliver helped Snow strengthen the Flames’ analytics department.
“Those early days were really just him kicking around [ideas] on what he thought would be useful for a hockey organization and me helping him shape that into what eventually became a centralized repository for all that information,” Oliver said.
The two still talk frequently and Oliver was at Snow’s 40th birthday party in August of 2021.
“It’s awesome,” Oliver said of Snow’s promotion. “Seeing him stay with that group has been pretty phenomenal.”
With his new role, Snow is more directly involved in higher-level decisions with the organization. He was an active participant during the search process for Treliving’s successor, with the Flames speaking to nearly 40 candidates.
Snow is currently participating in interviews for the team’s new head coach and will continue to build out the Flames’ advanced stats department. He has already made one hire this off-season and plans on expanding the department.
“We are very fortunate to have the organizational support and resources to be going into year 10 of a bona fide department,” he said. “I think you’ll see us grow this summer. We’ll continue to add intellect that is team-oriented and practical.”
Much has changed between December and June and Snow now looks back on those frightening times with gratitude.
“Odd as this may sound, my two weeks in the ICU in December were a blessing,” he said.
“That was my seventh hospitalization in 14 months. Since then, I’ve been in just once in six months and it was very minor. We learned a couple techniques in the ICU to keep my throat and lungs clear that are now part of my daily routine. Between that and a new feeding tube back in December that bypasses my stomach and feeds directly into my small intestine, I feel we’ve solved the issues that were endangering me. Had we known way back when what we know now, I would have avoided most and potentially every one of those hospitalizations.”