The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


December 30, 2012

Top 10 sports stories of 2012 | No. 1 Tomahawks bring hockey back to Johnstown

JOHNSTOWN — It started when the North American Hockey League approved the sale of the Junior A Tier II Alaska Avalanche to Johnstown Sports Partners LLC in late April.

The sale signaled the return of hockey to Johnstown.

And the Johnstown Tomahawks have dominated headlines ever since.

“We promised Johnstown a show when we bought the team,” said Tomahawks President Rick Bouchard. “We want to grow hockey in the community.”

So far, the Tomahawks have delivered on that promise.

The season started on the road before a sellout crowd packed Cambria County War Memorial on Sept. 29 to witness the rebirth of hockey in Johnstown and watch Hall of Famer and Pittsburgh Penguins co-owner Mario Lemieux drop the ceremonial first puck.

The Tomahawks lost to the Michigan Warriors, 3-2, in an overtime shootout but, for the 3,721 in attendance, Johnstown’s new team – the Chiefs of the ECHL packed up for Greenville, S.C. in April 2010 – was reason to celebrate.

Since that loss in the home opener, the Tomahawks have played an entertaining, winning brand of hockey. Attendance ranks fifth in the NHL with an average of 2,217 fans, behind only a small handful of larger-market teams, and the positives for the local economy has been an added bonus.

Johnstown, coached by popular former Chiefs tough guy Jason Spence, entered Sunday’s home game against the Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings in fourth place in the North Division. The Tomahawks are 17-9-6 (40 points) and lead the division with 107 points scored despite playing the fewest games in the North.

If high-flying, winning hockey wasn’t enough for the rabid fan base in Johnstown, the franchise has hit a series of home runs promotionally.

Besides Lemieux dropping the first puck, the Tomahawks have maintained several of the traditions established by the Chiefs, including a New Year’s Eve home game and the Teddy Bear Toss, which gained significant attention when some of the 3,500 teddy bears distributed were tossed on the ice after a member of the Jamestown Ironmen scored the lone goal of a game played Dec. 15.

Fifteen minutes later, play resumed.

“People make mistakes and people get on board,” said Spence, who had been through his share of Teddy Bear Tosses during his career with the Chiefs. “That stuff happens. … As long as it’s for a good cause.”

The Stanley Cup appeared at the War Memorial the same night, along with Pittsburgh Penguins Matt Cooke and Chris Kunitz.

The previous night, the famed, or infamous, Hanson Brothers showed up and the long hockey weekend also included a special screening of “Slap Shot” at Westwood Plaza Theatre.

“This weekend really fits into what we said we were going to do right from the start of the season and that is to bring hockey back to Johnstown in a big way,” said Bouchard.

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  • ‘Hawks already building toward next season

    Jason Spence used up his cell phone’s battery on a trip from Johnstown to his parents’ home in Nova Scotia, Canada.
    Once the Johnstown Tomahawks coach got to his destination, Spence had to get creative to secure cell service across the border.

    April 16, 2014

  • horizontal hawks Fighting Falcons win playoff series against Tomahawks

    The third period of Game 3 of the NAHL North Division semifinal served as a quick primer of the Johnstown Tomahawks’ playoff fortunes against top-seeded Port Huron.
    Trailing by two goals going into the third, the Tomahawks ramped up the intensity, producing a goal early and a multitude of chances at an equalizer until the game’s final moments when goaltender Max Milosek stopped Jordan Watt’s breakaway try as the Cambria County War Memorial Arena’s horn sounded.

    April 12, 2014 2 Photos

  • ’Hawks need a win to survive

    At the moment, it’s not about advancing through the postseason for the Johnstown Tomahawks. It’s simply a case of surviving to play another day.

    April 11, 2014

  • Falcons clip Tomahawks in overtime

    The Johnstown Tomahawks squandered a pair of two-goal leads and fell 4-3 in overtime to Port Huron in Game 2 of the North Division semifinals on Friday night.
    Johnstown trails the best-of-5 series 2-0 and will try to avoid elimination when the series moves to Cambria County War Memorial Arena on Friday.

    April 5, 2014

  • Tomahawks drop Game 1 on road

    The Johnstown Tomahawks came back from an early two-goal deficit, but Jon Hall scored a third period goal to give the Port Huron Fighting Falcons the 3-2 win in Game 1 of the best-of-5 North Division semi-finals on Thursday night at McMorran Arena.
    The Fighting Falcons struck first, as Bryce VanHorn scored 1:39 into the first period. Logan Lambdin earned an assist on the goal.

    April 4, 2014

  • tomahawks okicki Tomahawks set to open postseason on road

    The Johnstown Tomahawks open the Robertson Cup playoffs tonight at Port Huron hoping to reclaim the form that enabled the second-year team to move near the top of the NAHL North Division a mere six weeks ago.
    Standing in the way of fourth-seeded Johnstown is No. 1 Port Huron, a team that planted itself firmly atop the division and never relented.

    April 3, 2014 1 Photo

  • 'Hawks drop season finale at Janesville

    The Johnstown Tomahawks closed the NAHL regular season with a 4-1 loss to the Janesville Jets in front of 650 fans at Janesville Ice Arena on Saturday night.
    The Tomahawks had secured the North Division’s fourth and final playoff spot when Springfield lost at Soo on Friday night, so the game had no bearing on the playoff race.

    March 30, 2014

  • Tomahawks clinch berth in playoffs

    The Johnstown Tomahawks lost a 5-3 decision at Janesville on Friday, but clinched a NAHL playoff berth nonetheless because Soo defeated Springfield 2-1 earlier in the day.
    The Tomahawks began the weekend in fourth place, three points behind Janesville and three points ahead of fifth-place Springfield.

    March 29, 2014

  • Tomahawks’ playoff hopes hinge on next two games

    March 27, 2014

  • Eagles avoid sweep, nip Tomahawks

    The Johnstown Tomahawks battled back from a three-goal deficit in Sunday afternoon’s final regular-season home game against Soo, but a late third-period score by the Eagles sent the Tomahawks to a disappointing 4-3 loss.
    Soo (24-27-7) erupted for three unanswered goals in a six-minute span to open the second period before the Tomahawks (28-25-5) pulled within one heading into the third and subsequently tied it at 5:53 of the final period on a blast from inside the right circle by Matt Meier.

    March 23, 2014


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