Fans who spoke to The Tribune-Democrat had mixed reactions upon learning of the Johnstown Tomahawks Charity Classic’s cancellation on Tuesday afternoon.
Wendy Graham of East Conemaugh was so disappointed in the decision by the Penguins that she will no longer support the Pittsburgh team.
“I’m very upset,” she said. “I’m very disgusted. I understand that the lockout was going on ... I knew it was a possibility. If you knew it was a possibility, why commit to it?”
She said that her 11-year-old son, Scott, is a huge Penguins fan, and wears the numbers 87 and 71 in honor of his favorite players, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, when he plays for a pair of Conemaugh Valley squads.
“He is unbelievably upset over (the decision to cancel the game),” she said. “He was really looking forward to it.”
Members of the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Johnstown Tomahawks had been scheduled to skate side-by-side tonight at Cambria County War Memorial Arena in a charity game that sold out in a record seven minutes with tickets costing $25 a seat.
The NHL owners and NHL Players’ Association reached a tentative agreement to end the NHL lockout early Sunday morning. The charity game eventually became a casualty of the upcoming abbreviated training camp.
Tomahawks President Richard Bouchard cited the Penguins organization’s concerns over the players’ insurance coverage as the primary roadblock to playing the game to benefit Pittsburgh Kids Foundation-Haiti and Johnstown Tomahawks Foundation.
Kristi Stanovich of Mundys Corner stood in line at the War Memorial for about two hours to get three tickets for the charity game. She said she understood the insurance concerns, but that didn’t mean that she was any less disappointed in the outcome.
“I just wish that there was some way to please everybody in the end so that the charity could have gotten what they wanted, the fans could have gotten what they wanted and the players could have gotten what they wanted – to play with the Penguins,” she said. “I just wish it could have happened differently.”
She has gone to a number of Tomahawks games to fill the void left by the lockout and, unlike some others, she doesn’t expect the cancellation of the charity game to affect her affinity for either team.
“We’ll continue to be fans and go to Tomahawks games and probably try to go to Penguins games,” she said. “I just wish it was a different turnout.”
Rob Crist of Johnstown was upset by the Penguins’ decision to keep players out of the game.
“They’re concerned about injuries or what not,” he said. “It’s not a competitive game. It doesn’t require hard contact. We have people living in this town that found $25 of their hard-earned dollars for it and we know they don’t have a lot to spare. They could have played the game this week.”
Crist suggested that the Penguins should donate a portion of their earnings from the remainder of the lockout-shortened season to help the charities. He also said that Tomahawks owner James Bouchard, who is reportedly friends with Penguins owner Mario Lemieux, should have been able to come to a compromise on the game.
“They need to work it out as gentlemen and take care of the people of Johnstown,” he said.
Tribune-Democrat Sports Writer Mike Mastovich contributed to this report.