The Cambria County Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2014 inductees spoke about chasing dreams, family ties, great teammates and coaches, and hometown roots on Saturday night.
A crowd of 200 attended the 18th induction ceremony held at the Pasquerilla Conference Center as new inductees Leah Hollis, Ed Johnston, John Kasay Sr., Randy Mazey and Tom McGough entered the Hall. Class of 1990 inductee Carlton Haselrig had football added to his original hall of fame credentials as a six-time national wrestling champion.
“You can make your dreams come true,” said Hollis, who played on two Richland High School girls volleyball state championships before playing under NCAA Division I scholarship at Rutgers University. “I know it sounds like a Disney fairy tale, but it is true. You can make your dreams come true.”
Hollis pointed to the support of her family, coaches and teammates from those Richland state championship squads, which were honored by the hall of fame on the 30th anniversary of the title runs. She thanked coach Linda Renzi, herself a 2002 Cambria County Sports Hall of Fame inductee.
“Our team had a dream to go on and get those state championships and be Lady Rams on and off the court,” Hollis said. “When you achieve that dream, you don’t just put it on a shelf. You find another one.”
Johnston parlayed an Eastern Hockey League championship season as goaltender of the 1959-60 Johnstown Jets into an opportunity to play and coach in the National Hockey League. After spending more than 50 seasons in the NHL in one capacity or another, Johnston earned three Stanley Cup championship rings.
“You talk about honors,” Johnston said. “I’ve been very fortunate to win a couple Cups as a player and one as senior advisor with the Penguins, but I have to put this honor right on the top of it. If it wasn’t for Johnstown I don’t think I would have been in the National Hockey League.”
Johnston won a pair of Stanley Cups with the Boston Bruins in 1970 and 1972, and as a senior advisor he was part of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ third Cup win in 2009.
“I played 16 years in the National Hockey League. I had a great career as a coach and general manager, but none of this would have happened if I was not here in Johnstown,” said Johnston, who was reunited with his long-time friend and former teammate Don Hall, a prolific Johnstown Jets scorer who was in the inaugural Cambria County Sports Hall of Fame Class of 1965. “I was very fortunate we had a great owner, Charlie Kunkle. We had a great GM, Johnny Mitchell. The memories here have been terrific.”
In addition to catching up with Hall, Johnston spoke with many devoted Johnstown pro hockey fans, some of whom remembered him as a Jets goalie.
“I walked in the room tonight and I bet I saw 40 or 50 people that came to the hockey games,” Johnston said. “That season we won, I think we were sold out just about every single game.”
The hockey theme included honors on the 20th anniversary of the 1994 Bishop McCort High School Class A Pennsylvania Cup championship team and the Crushers’ four other state crowns in 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1999. McCort coach John Bradley and former coach Galen Head attended with many of their former players. Head is a member of the Hall’s Class of 2006.
Kasay spoke of family and a blue-collar generation of Johnstowners who helped build the foundation for success in sports and community in the 1950s.
Kasay paid homage to the undefeated 1958 WPIAL champion Trojans football team. He played on teams right after the title run, but said his class benefited from the example those players set, as well as exposure gained when scouts came to watch a powerhouse Johnstown program.
“They gave us something to look at. They gave us something to want,” Kasay said of Johnstown’s great players. “Then, I happened to have the best football coach in high school, (Cambria County Sports Hall of Famer, 1998) Dave Hart. He was very progressive. He did things the right way.”
After graduation, Kasay started on the University of Georgia’s 10-win, fourth-ranked 1966 team under coach Vince Dooley, who later hired Kasay as an assistant coach. Kasay spent 44 years at the university.
“I’m a recipient of one of the greatest honors I think you can have, but I’m just the guy who is going to take home the trophy,” Kasay said.
“These kinds of people kept leading you forward,” Kasay added. “Without that support system that I was lucky to have, that would have not have happened. The opportunities we had. The coaches. It was a perfect storm. I can’t tell you there weren’t any sad days. But I can’t tell you how lucky I have been.”
Forest Hills High School’s 1994 PIAA Class AA state runner-up football team was recognized for a 13-2 season that included an upset win over WPIAL power New Brighton in the Western Final and a double-overtime contest against Mount Carmel in the title game at Mansion Park. Coach Don Bailey, entering his 41st season at the school, thanked assistant coaches and players in attendance.
Mazey starred in baseball at United High School and in the AAABA Tournament before heading to a Division I All-ACC career at Clemson University. He’s been a coach at some of the top Division I programs for nearly 25 years and recently finished his second season at West Virginia University.
“What a humbling award to share this podium,” Mazey said. “I’m so proud to be from Johnstown.”
Mazey spoke of the significance of making an impact.
“I’ve committed my life to trying to make a difference in the lives of young people,” Mazey said. “They say on average every person will meet 10,000 people in their lifetime. If every person changed the lives of 10 people and the next generation did the same ... We’d change the world.”
West Virginia University Athletic Director Oliver Luck was among those in attendance.
A Plum resident, McGough brought several worn rubbercoated baseballs he used to throw off a brick wall of a Westwood shopping center while perfecting his pitching game. The work paid off as the Cleveland Indians selected him in the fourth round of the 1973 draft, three days after his high school graduation from Greater Johnstown. McGough pitched a no-hitter in Class AA and twice was summoned to the Indians’ major league roster.
“This is an extraordinary honor, but I’m not sure you’re aware how this community has impacted each and every one of our lives,” McGough said to the audience. “Thank God for this wonderful, wonderful community where dreams do come true. Thank you Johnstown, for making this such a wonderful place to live. What a wonderful place to raise a family.”
McGough recalled how his family’s decision to allow his older brother to join a then-new West Suburban Little League eventually inspired him to play and work at baseball. Like Hollis, he spoke of dreaming big and reaching goals.
“I come back here tonight to say, ‘Thank you. Thank you for allowing this little boy’s dream to come true,” McGough said. “Thank you, Johnstown, and God bless.’”
The hall of fame recognized the AAABA Tournament on its upcoming 70th anniversary. The tournament has produced hundreds of future major leaguers and top college players over the years while also serving as a social event and economic boost to the region.
“A lot of people have stuck with AAABA through the years,” said George Arcurio III, national president of the AAABA and president of the Johnstown Oldtimers Baseball Association. “I have to thank the board of directors of the Johnstown Oldtimers. I get the credit, they do the work.”
Haselrig closed the program with his second appearance at the podium in 24 years.
“Back when Carlton Haselrig was inducted to the hall of fame in 1990, I remember he said, ‘Stay tuned for Carlton Part II.’ There was no reason to believe that Carlton wouldn’t live up to that statement,” emcee Tim Rigby said.
“He’s back again, as he promised,” Rigby said.
Haselrig originally was inducted as a six-time national champion wrestler at Pitt-Johnstown. But the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted him in 1989, and Haselrig moved from the practice squad to a Pro Bowl offensive guard in 1992.
“I said I’d be back. This time it feels a lot better. I can really appreciate the significance of it now,” Haselrig said.
Haselrig thanked his family and his Greater Johnstown High School coaches and teammates.
“The pride and tradition at Johnstown is real,” he said. “Once a Trojan, always a Trojan.”
Haselrig also acknowledged UPJ coach and mentor Pat Pecora, a Class of 1998 inductee.
“Coach Pecora made it very simple for me,” Haselrig said. “All I had to do was listen to him. Go to school. Wrestle. Win national championships. Graduate. Get drafted and play in the NFL.
“Before I knew it, I was in Steelers camp,” he added. “Thanks coach for your encouragement and positive words. Any accomplishment I’ve made in my life is not mine, it’s the people who surround me and support me. I’m a truly blessed man.”
Mike Mastovich is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/masty81.