The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


February 15, 2010

When it comes to pro hockey, Johnstown ends with ‘leaves town’

The dollars and cents, it appears, finally caught up to the Johnstown Chiefs.

After 15 years in which two multiple ownership groups shrugged off significant financial losses in order to maintain a community asset, the monetary setbacks became too great for majority owner Neil Smith, New York City investor Steve Posner and minority owner Ned Nakles Jr.’s group to endure.

Smith announced Sunday that the Chiefs will move to Greenville, S.C., pending league approval.

The news saddened longtime fans and the community in general. The Chiefs have played

22 ECHL seasons and are the only original member still located in the same city.

But Johnstown’s pro hockey fans have endured similar disappointments in the past. And each time hockey resurfaced in another entity, whether it took a year or eight years to come back.

The diehards can only hope for history to repeat itself in this case.

A look at the final days of Johnstown’s previous franchises:

- Johnstown Blue Birds: The Blue Birds played one season in 1941-42.

The Eastern Amateur Hockey League team lasted a mere five months, skating at the former Shaffer Ice Palace in Hornerstown.

The team struggled financially – a common theme in the decades to follow – but set a foundation for future hockey teams.

Fourteen dates into that inaugural and only season, news that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor filtered through an afternoon 2-1 loss to Baltimore. World War II had begun.

The economic situation worsened for Blue Birds owner Pick Hines. He contacted the league office to reveal that his players hadn’t been paid in two weeks.

The Blue Birds were about to fold. But a man named Harry Crichton, who was vice president of sales for the Johnstown Coal & Coke Company, entered league president Tom Lockhart’s Madison Square Garden office and plopped down $2,000 to cover the team’s expenses.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • Edwards honored by ECHL

    December 5, 2013

  • Slapshot Cup expands to 18 teams in second year

    The Slapshot Cup Hockey Tournament has expanded for its second year in Johnstown.

    September 28, 2011

  • ZIGGYS.jpg Former players rally to help ‘Ziggy'

    Randy Rowe felt it was so important to wear the specially designed Ziggy’s Fundraiser sweater that he juggled his schedule and planned a 91⁄2-hour drive from Belleville, Ontario, to Richland Township.

    June 3, 2010 1 Photo

  • chiefs_main.jpg Johnstown sufferes an epic loss

    The final seconds ticked down in the Johnstown Chiefs’ ECHL existence on Saturday night, and even though the hometown team trailed by four goals, a standing-room-only crowd began chanting, “Let’s go Chiefs.”
    That chant would be nothing out of the ordinary on most nights. But this game was the last game.
    Twenty-two ECHL seasons and thousands of memories came to a conclusion when the Chiefs dropped a 5-3 contest to Elmira at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.

    April 4, 2010 6 Photos

  • chiefs_sorry.JPG Mike Mastovich: ‘A sad night for Johnstown’

    Scott Allen stood on the New York Islanders bench during Saturday’s game against the Ottawa Senators.
    Long Island and the NHL is about as far from Johnstown and the ECHL as one gets on a sunny afternoon.

    April 4, 2010 2 Photos

  • chiefs_banner.JPG Joe Gorden: City teams usually on thin ice

    A sellout crowd turned out on Saturday to say goodbye to the ECHL’s
    Johnstown Chiefs in their last game at Cambria County War Memorial Arena. The irony was obvious.

    April 4, 2010 1 Photo

  • Nailers to play 11 games in Johnstown next year

    The thought of loyal Johnstown Chiefs fans rooting for the Wheeling Nailers might have been difficult to grasp a few months ago.
    But next season, Johnstown’s hockey fans have no other choice.

    April 3, 2010

  • CHIEFS_celebration.jpg Mike Mastovich: 10 Defining moments in Chiefs history

    So, this is it.
    Twenty-two ECHL seasons and 1,518 regular-season games.
    It ends tonight at a sold-out Cambria County War Memorial Arena.

    April 3, 2010 3 Photos

  • Chiefs drop final road game

    The Johnstown Chiefs dropped the final road game in team history on Friday night, falling behind early and failing to catch up to the Cincinnati Cyclones in a 5-1 loss in front of more than 10,000 fans at U.S. Bank Arena.

    April 2, 2010

  • Arena confirms: Wheeling Nailers to play some games in Johnstown next year

    April 2, 2010


Do you think pet obituaries should be included with death notices?

Yes, my pet is considered a member of the family.
No, pet obituaries are inappropriate.
Pet obituaries should be placed on a different page in the newspaper.
     View Results
Order Photos

Photo Slideshow

House Ads