The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


January 31, 2013

Legends Ham, Hall reminisce about old Jets days

JOHNSTOWN — Jack Ham answered questions from a small group of local media at Cambria County War Memorial Arena when a visitor entered the suite overlooking the ice and playfully shouted:

“Ham, you parked in my parking spot.”

The Pro Football Hall of Famer and four-time Super Bowl winner with the Pittsburgh Steelers dynasty of the 1970s stopped in mid-sentence and laughed.

“I’m being heckled by Don Hall,” said Ham, minority owner of the Johnstown Tomahawks.

Hall stood in the hallway with a big smile on his face. The Jets No. 9 and the Steelers No. 59 briefly embraced before Ham continued his interview on Jack Ham bobblehead night.

Hall is a Johnstown Jets legend who netted 424 goals and 1,056 points in 11 years with the former Eastern Hockey League squad. Hall was a nine-time league all-star and part of four Jets championship squads in the 1950s and 1960s.

Ham intently followed Hall and the Jets during his early years. The future outside linebacker was among a group of youths who helped groom the ice before the game and between periods during the pre-Zamboni era.

“I was always a hockey fan growing up here,” said Ham, a Bishop McCort graduate and Penn State All-American prior to his NFL career. “My aunt would take me to Jets games. Don Hall, Dick Roberge, that line (with center Ken Coombes). The Eastern Hockey League was a big thing. I really enjoyed it. I used to come down and skate on Saturday morning.”

Hall, 82, remembered the young Ham well. The two men have had a friendship that’s lasted decades.

“Jack was a rink rat when I played,” Hall said. “He’d clean the ice. Back then they didn’t have a Zamboni. They had to do it by hand. They had a pull-cart so you could flood the ice. He’d sneak in for the hockey games.

“When they’d drop the puck, the police would open the back gates and all the young kids would run in. He was part of that group.”

The ice crew used shovels to scrape the surface and then poured barrels of water on the ice to form a new sheet during intermissions. The task now is performed in a matter of minutes by ice resurfacing machines commonly known as Zambonis.

“Hockey is in the fabric of this town,” Ham said. “I’m so glad we could bring hockey back here.”

A crowd of 2,237 attended the Tomahawks’ 3-2 win over Port Huron – a solid number for a Thursday night. That total certainly was helped by the bobblehead, which featured Ham’s likeness wearing a white Tomahawks jersey and gold Steelers pants. He holds a football in his left hand and a hockey stick in his right.

Ham spent two hours mingling with fans who attended a special reception in the Stars and Stripes room at the War Memorial. He shook hands, signed autographs and posed for photos.

Tomahawks General Manager Rick Boyd is a native of British Columbia, but he said Ham was known even in hockey-crazed Canada.

“Growing up, the Steelers even back home were legendary,” said Boyd. “Even in Canada, the Steelers were big. Jack Ham is a legend there too.”

Boyd appreciated Ham’s friendly and outgoing approach with the fans at the reception prior to the game.

“Everybody that’s involved with this organization loves the community and wants to give back,” Boyd said. “It just shows they take time out of their schedule to be a part of this for the team. I think it’s a reflection of the ownership group.”

For Ham, his role as a minority owner in his hometown is a natural fit.

“Being a minority owner is new for me,” Ham said. “I’m just glad to be a part of it. I’m glad Jim Bouchard (majority owner) was able to bring this team here because he had an opportunity to put it in different cities. I’m glad he brought it to Johnstown.”

Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • aaaba 0721 Martella’s sweeps past Delweld

    A six-run rally in the first helped guide Martella’s Pharmacy to an 8-1 win over Delweld in Game 3 of their best-of-5 AAABA League semifinal series at Point Stadium, sweeping the series in the process.
    That rally also continued season-long trends for the clubs, according to their respective managers.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • warshel_0721 Warshel selecting UPJ

    For Kelci Warshel, the call to attend Pitt-Johnstown was based on the availability of her desired major – nursing.
    Taking an opportunity to join the university’s women’s track and field program was a very nice add-on and one that the Richland High graduate is ready to jump into ...
    ... Or hurdle over.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates 0721 Rallying Dodgers snap Pirates’ win streak at 3 games

    Hyun-Jin Ryu pitched seven strong innings, Adrian Gonzalez reached base five times and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-2 on Monday night.
    Ryu (11-5) joined Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw in making the Dodgers the first team in the majors with three 11-game winners.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pitt picked sixth in cluttered Coastal

    Florida State was an obvious choice as a favorite in one of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s divisions.
    In the other one, the pecking order was nowhere near that clear.

    July 21, 2014

  • Local Sports Briefs

    July 21, 2014

  • American Legion Region 7: Bedford gets past Clearfield

    Bedford’s Jake Stover had two hits with double and three RBIs in a 9-6 win against host Clearfield in the Pa. American Legion Region 7 Tournament.

    July 21, 2014

  • American Legion Region 7: Claysburg edges Beech Creek

    Claysburg’s Mike Mock went 2-for-2 with a two-run home run in the fourth inning to help his squad get by Beech Creek 7-6 during Sunday’s winners-bracket game in the Pa. American Legion Region 7 Tournament.

    July 21, 2014

  • Pirates 0720 Pirates rally to keep sweep

    Taking the extra base was the key for the Pittsburgh Pirates in completing a three-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies.
    Andrew McCutchen hit a tiebreaking single in the seventh inning, Neil Walker followed with a home run and the Pirates overcame a three-run deficit to beat the Rockies 5-3 Sunday.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • LAG 0720 AAABA League playoffs: Laurel Auto Group moves closer to advancing

    Second-seeded Laurel Auto Group fell behind early against No. 3 Berkley Hills Renegades on Sunday afternoon at Roxbury Park. But Laurel’s players didn’t lose their composure.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Urtz, Pope lead AAABA League award votes

    Logan Urtz hadn’t fielded a ground ball as an infielder or swung a bat in a game for a couple seasons.
    But you can’t take the former infielder out of a starting pitcher.

    July 20, 2014