JOHNSTOWN — The National Hockey League’s labor strife inadvertently will provide Johnstown hockey fans an opportunity to watch some of the game’s top players at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.
A group of locked out Pittsburgh Penguins players and the Johnstown Tomahawks will participate in a charity hockey event at the War Memorial Arena on Wednesday.
The NHL players -- including popular Penguins Matt Cooke and Chris Kunitz who each recently were part of a Tomahawks promotion at the War Memorial – will play side by side with Tomahawks players in a game to raise money for Pittsburgh Kids Foundation-Haiti and the Johnstown Tomahawks Charity Foundation.
Tickets, which cost $25 for all seats, will go on sale at 10 a.m. on Friday at the War Memorial, and may also be purchased through TicketMaster or by calling the Tomahawks.
In addition to Cooke and Kunitz, the Penguins players scheduled to participate in the event are goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury; forwards Pascal Dupuis, Craig Adams and Joe Vitale; and defenseman Brooks Orpik, Deryk Engelland and Ben Lovejoy.
Former Penguin forward Jordan Staal also is to play in the game.
Tomahawks president Richard Bouchard said the game is set to go on even if the NHL lockout issues would be resolved in the next days. The NHL and NHLPA negotiations have resumed this week.
“Obviously there is a disclaimer. We’re so close. Anything could happen,” Bouchard said. “But as of now if the lockout ends and the training camp begins on the 12th or 13th (of January), the game is still on unless the Penguins would order the players not to play. Anything can happen, but as of now the game is on.”
The Tomahawks compete in the North American Hockey League, a Tier II Junior A amateur level. The community oriented team has quickly won over Johnstown and its hockey fans through spirited play on the ice and a willingness to interact with people and organizations throughout the region.
Tomahawks majority owner James Bouchard and his company Esmark have strong ties to the Penguins, and Bouchard is a friend of Mario Lemieux, the Hall of Famer who won two Stanley Cups with the Pens before becoming an owner of the team.
“My brother Jim has made several trips to Haiti and is very involved in the Pittsburgh Kids Foundation and that’s how this all came to fruition,” Richard Bouchard said. “He made several trips to donate medical supplies over the last few years. Haiti is officially the poorest country in the world. Pittsburgh Kids Foundation has made several trips.
“Dr. Brad Henderson is the president of the Pittsburgh Kids Foundation and between him and my brother, they approached me and said Johnstown would be the perfect fit to raise some money for this great cause.”
Bouchard even has three NHL officials to work the game in referees Steve Walkom and Paul Devorski, and linesman Derek Amell.
Special commemorative uniforms have been ordered and will be part of a silent auction to raise money for the charities, Bouchard said.