The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

January 6, 2013

No news, good news for Charity Classic

JOHNSTOWN — The Johnstown Tomahawks Charity Classic sold out in a Cambria County War Memorial Arena-record 7 minutes.

The charity game set to feature members of the Pittsburgh Penguins and the NAHL’s Johnstown Tomahawks on Wednesday night quickly became the talk of the region and a feel-good story in the midst of the drawn-out NHL lockout.

Now that the lockout is set to end and the NHL will soon return to the ice, many of the people who purchased tickets to the Tomahawks Charity Classic had mixed emotions. Sure, local hockey fans were ecstatic about having an opportunity to once again watch NHL games and their Penguins during a season that seemed headed into lockout oblivion. But,  based on social media activity, phone calls, emails and text messages to the media, there also is a bit of apprehension in the minds of ticket holders wondering exactly how the lockout’s pending resolution will affect the big charity event in Johnstown.

Neither Tomahawks President Richard Bouchard nor Director of Business Operations Jean Desrochers returned multiple phone calls on Sunday.

Tomahawks media relations director Suzanne Grove said the team had no official word regarding any changes to the game as a result of the lockout deal. Grove said the team would issue a statement if any news broke.

“As of right now, there are no changes to the scheduled game,” Grove said Sunday night. “If there are any changes of any kind, our fans will be the first to know.”

For now, perhaps the best approach is to reflect on what Bouchard said when the Charity Classic was announced last week.

When asked on Wednesday what would happen if the NHL lockout ended prior to the Tomahawks Charity Classic being played, Bouchard said, “Obviously there is a disclaimer. We’re so close. Anything could happen. But as of now if the lockout ends and the training camp begins on (Jan.) 12 or 13, 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.”

Players such as Marc-Andre Fleury, Matt Cooke, Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis and Brooks Orpik were among those listed on the hybrid rosters released by the Tomahawks on Friday.

Bouchard previously said commemorative uniforms have been ordered and are expected to arrive Tuesday. He has three NHL officials to work the game.

At $25 a pop, and with just shy of 4,000 seats listed as the War Memorial’s current hockey capacity, close to $100,000 in ticket revenue had been generated – in 7 minutes. Ticket sales and other fundraisers will help two charities, Pittsburgh Kids Foundation-Haiti and Johnstown Tomahawks Foundation.

A decision by higher powers to cancel an event that has created so much goodwill among fans now twice burned by NHL lockouts in the past decade just wouldn’t be logical.

But, hey, this is the NHL. Business is business.

The league and its players have bigger issues at hand than a charity event, even if that event is one of the biggest hockey spectacles planned for the Johnstown region in decades.

If it doesn’t fit into the NHL owners’ and players’ schedules, that’s understandable. Hockey is their livelihood and they’ve got to do what they’ve got to do.

We’ve waited 113 days and counting for lockout-related answers. We’ll wait a little longer.

Unlike most of the lockout, however, in this instance, no news is good news for Johnstown fans.

Mike Mastovich is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat.