The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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February 15, 2010

Chiefs’ pending move has region’s fans wondering: What’s next?

JOHNSTOWN — Johnstown Chiefs fans repeatedly asked one question after owner Neil Smith confirmed the ECHL team will relocate to Greenville, S.C., pending approval of the league governors.

“What’s next?”

Actually, that question typically was followed by others:

“Will there be pro hockey at Cambria County War Memorial Arena next season?”

“If not, how will the arena survive without a major tenant?”

The Chiefs have played in the ECHL for 22 seasons. The team is the only original league member still playing in the same city.

Johnstown holds a special place in professional hockey, with a history dating to the 1941-42 Blue Birds season, six league playoff championships earned by the Johnstown Jets and, of course, filming of the movie “Slap Shot” here in 1976.

Good or bad on the ice, the Chiefs were known throughout the hockey world because of their famous name and venerable arena.

Now, barring a miracle, they’re off to Greenville, a city with a shiny, spacious arena. The Bi-Lo Center once housed a championship ECHL team that eventually folded under financial burdens in 2006.

Philadelphia native Andy Richards has a few questions of his own. The vice commissioner of the fledgling Federal Hockey League spent part of Monday morning trying to contact the proper people in Johnstown and Cambria County. He wondered if Johnstown would be a fit for what the FHL hopes blossoms into a six-team low Class A level minor league.

“We’ve been following the situation with the Chiefs,” Richards said. “We didn’t anticipate they’d be leaving this soon. We thought they would last a few more years, but economics are economics. When we saw the thing with Greenville, we wanted to set up a meeting with the appropriate people in town and see if we can get involved with the community there. We are interested in getting that meeting set up and see what would be required and if it would fit our model.”

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What is the biggest key to reducing gun violence in Johnstown?

Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
Monitoring folks in treatment centers and halfway houses.
Tougher sentencing by the court system.
More police on the streets.

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