The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Sports

April 28, 2013

MAKING AN IMPACT | Tomahawks’ first season helps business, community

JOHNSTOWN — The Johnstown Tomahawks filled a void for the city’s hockey-starved fans while also pumping a boost into the region’s economy during their inaugural North American Hockey League season.

The Tomahawks are a Tier II Junior A team comprised of up-and-coming amateur players usually ranging from ages 17 to 20.

“They have brought the War Memorial back to the forefront of many hockey enthusiasts’ destinations. They’ve grown the hockey business,” said War Memorial Acting General Manager Tom Grenell. “Their level of professionalism and what they have been doing for the region is second to none.

“This mirrors the AAABA Tournament and the Sunnehanna Amateur in that you are more apt to see a future star. These players are on their way up.”

Johnstown’s newest team played in front of seven sellout crowds at Cambria County War Memorial Arena and had the fifth-best attendance in the 24-team league that stretches from coast to coast with teams in Texas, California and Washington. The Tomahawks played in the North Division, frequently facing teams from Michigan and New York.

“It’s like a pro game on game nights,” Tomahawks President Richard Bouchard said. “The buzz has been great. The restaurants and bars downtown have been doing really well.”

The ECHL’s Johnstown Chiefs relocated to Greenville, S.C., after the 2009-10 season after playing 22 seasons in Flood City.

In the Chiefs’ absence, the War Memorial and ECHL got creative, working a two-year deal with the league’s Wheeling Nailers.

Formerly the Chiefs’ biggest rival, the Nailers played 10 of their home games in Johnstown for two seasons.

But it wasn’t quite the same as Johnstown having its own team.

That all changed when Johnstown Sports Partners LLC, a private investment group led by Esmark, Inc. Chairman and CEO James Bouchard, acquired the NAHL’s Alaska Avalanche in early May and relocated the team from Palmer, Alaska, to Johnstown.

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