By TOBY O'BRIEN
I just wanted to take a moment to reach out to all the folks of the Greater Johnstown region with an observation and a request.
Although no longer affiliated with the Johnstown Chiefs hockey club, I am very familiar with the goings on of “our franchise.”
Yes, it did go through some ups and downs the past year or two, culminating with an unusual ownership situation this summer, but the bottom line is that it has – like our city – survived and is moving forward.
With the very unusual offseason that the team endured, I am sure many of you are saying “what now?” As a fan of the team and the town, I have been down at the rink, saw many familiar friends at the exhibition game and felt the excitement again. This is an excitement that we all need and was missing for many reasons.
Being a guy that has done everything but wash the toilets in the organization, I felt that comfortable “family” feeling in the office and around the team. The staff, under Kevin McGeehan, is working overtime and they are having fun doing it again. The ownership has stepped up and kept the ship afloat during a difficult time this summer. The team has a coach entering his first year as a head coach who came in and was hit in the face by the unexpected changes, yet reacted on his feet, pulled in two affiliations and a good core group of players.
I can’t tell you the Chiefs are going to win the Kelly Cup. I can just tell you that the people working there and the team seem to be energized and care about “what Chiefs hockey means to many of us.”
The feeling is good down at the War Memorial.
The ECHL is putting the City of Johnstown, the Chiefs and the league on an international stage Thursday for the 20th anniversary of the league.
This “tiny community” and “can’t-survive franchise” somehow is the only franchise to survive for all 20 years. That is something that all of the folks – current and former owners, former employees, leaders, volunteers, fans and this city and region – should be proud of.
Two in particular – Jim Edwards and Ned Nakles – quietly and out of their passion for the team and what it brings to all of us get nothing out of it, but have been instrumental for many years in the team remaining in Johnstown.
Please, after so much of my life has been tied to this team, don’t ask “what about next year?” Just focus on the now.
Get your season tickets, support the Chiefs with advertising, and above all else, if you don’t go to another game all year, please show your support for the “little franchise that could,” one that keeps going year after year.
The city is going to be on display Thursday. Find some way to be a part of it and fill the building.
My favorite phrase while with the team was “together we can find a way.” It is still the same. If you think about doing something with the team this year, do it. If you thought about going to a special event for this city on Thursday, do it.
Toby O’Brien is a former Chiefs player, coach and general manager. He is a pro scout with the New York Islanders and still lives in Southmont.