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January 3, 2013

Tomahawks look forward to sharing ice with Pens

JOHNSTOWN — Even though he was raised as a Chicago Blackhawks fan, Chris Truehl knows all about Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup-winning goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.

Truehl, a Johnstown Tomahawks goalie, soon will share the Cambria County War Memorial Arena ice with Fleury, also known as “Flower” to Penguins fans.

“Marc-Andre Fleury has been on every big stage playing for championships,” Truehl said. “He has a Stanley cup. He played in the World Juniors for Canada. He’s a well-known name. It’s going to be awesome to meet him and to be able to see what he can do on the ice.”

Fleury is among a group of locked out Pittsburgh Penguins scheduled to participate in the Johnstown Tomahawks Charity Classic at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at the War Memorial.

Tickets for the charity event are $25 and go on sale at 10 a.m. today at the arena. Tickets also may be purchased by calling Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000 or www.ticketmaster.com. Funds will benefit the Pittsburgh Kids Foundation-Haiti and the Johnstown Tomahawks Foundation.

“I was incredibly surprised that we’re going to be able to realize this opportunity,” said Truehl, a 19-year-old from Stoughton, Wisc. “It’s going to be an incredible experience. Not many people will be able to say they’re on the same ice with these guys. It will be good for Western Pennsylvania and Johnstown.”

In addition to Fleury, the Penguins players scheduled to participate in the event are forwards Matt Cooke, Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis, Craig Adams and Joe Vitale; and defensemen Brooks Orpik, Deryk Engelland and Ben Lovejoy.

Former Penguin forward Jordan Staal also is to play in the game.

Big announcement: Penguins, Tomahawks to team up for game

Tomahawks and Penguins players will be assigned to the two hybrid teams. The exhibition will not pair the Tier II Junior A Tomahawks against the NHL players.

As of Thursday afternoon, there was no word on whether Penguins star center Sidney Crosby would attend the event either as a player or a special guest.

Tomahawks President Richard Bouchard said the game is set to go on even if the NHL lockout issues would be resolved in the next few days. The NHL and NHLPA negotiations  resumed this week with hopes of salvaging at least part of the season.

“Obviously there is a disclaimer. We’re so close. Anything could happen,” Bouchard said. “But as of now if the lockout ends and the (NHL) training camp begins on (January) 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.”

The Tomahawks have had strong ties to the Penguins throughout their debut season in Johnstown.

Penguins Hall of Fame owner Mario Lemieux dropped the ceremonial first puck in front of a sellout crowd at the home opener. Cooke and Kunitz participated in a promotional event last month, signing autographs and posing for photos for two hours.

“Having Chris Kunitz and Matt Cooke at the game the other weekend was pretty exciting, and now knowing that we get to play with some NHL superstars and Pittsburgh Penguins, it’s going to be a fun game,” said Tomahawks hometown forward Cody Boyd, 18. “It’s going to be an experience for us as a team and for our community to have these players in Johnstown.

“It’s going to be a huge learning experience,” Boyd added. “I could be on a line with Chris Kunitz or Jordan Staal. If they see something I do wrong and they tell me something that can help out, I’m going to listen. They get paid millions of dollars to play the game. They know the game. They can help us out. That will be cool.”

Tomahawks majority owner James Bouchard's business, Esmark, is a Penguins corporate sponsor whose logo has been displayed on the arena boards in recent seasons.

James Bouchard resides near Lemieux and the two are friends.

“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.”

The charity event is a win-win situation as far as Tomahawks coach Jason Spence is concerned.

“It’s huge for the players to get the opportunity to play with those NHL players,” Spence said. “It’s a big thing for the community too.

“I was thrilled when I heard about this. We haven’t seen these NHL players play in a long while. This is kind of the first anybody is going to get a chance to see them this year. It’s special. It will be on the ice, a pro game format and they’re going to be playing with my boys.”

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