The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Mike Mastovich

February 1, 2012

Mike Mastovich | Where does hockey fit in War Memorial future?

With Nailers on the selling block, there may be no games in 2012-13

JOHNSTOWN — The Federal Hockey League wants in.

The Wheeling Nailers might be out.

The North American Hockey League just might be interested though nothing is official.

The United States Hockey League, not so much.

Exactly what is the future of hockey at Cambria County War Memorial Arena for next season and beyond?

Actually, if all the pieces fall the wrong way, there’s a chance that neither professional nor junior hockey will be played in the city in 2012-13.

‘Best for the community’

“We’ve had some phone calls from interested parties, from multiple people, professional and juniors,” War Memorial General Manager Mike Silva of SMG said prior to the Nailers’ game at the arena on Sunday night. “I’ve asked each of them to give us a proposal. SMG and the War Memorial Authority will evaluate each proposal for what’s best for the community, what’s the best level of hockey play, what’s the best product to offer to the community but also what’s the best financial model for the building.

“We have to find a viable product that can support the building. Ultimately it’s not about the team. It’s about the community and keeping our doors open.”

Hockey and the Cambria County War Memorial Arena have a long, often storied history dating to the venerable building’s opening in 1950.

In the two years since the Johnstown Chiefs bolted for Greenville, S.C., after 22 ECHL seasons here, the arena teamed with the Wheeling Nailers. The ECHL team played a hybrid schedule with 10 of its home dates in Johnstown each season. But the Nailers are for sale. If no local owner steps forward by March, current owners Jim and Rob Brooks have said the team will go dark in 2012-13.

Even should a local owner surface and keep the team in Wheeling, there is no guarantee the owner would continue to share home games with Johnstown. In fact, that scenario probably is unlikely.

Recently speculation about potential War Memorial tenants began to surface again in the days and weeks since Wheeling hung the “For Sale” sign.

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