Sunday, March 7, 2010

Galen Head - A Tale in Two Cities

HOCKEY LEGENDS: Galen Head - A tale in two cities - a hockey biography
The Grande Prairie (AB) Daily Herald-Tribune

The whole article is well worth the read. Here's the Johnstown Jets part...
Good-bye Detroit, hello Johnstown
Shortly after his tryout with the Wings, Galen made a successful bid to play for the Johnstown Jets in Pennsylvania and Johnstown quickly embraced him as one of their own. Galen reciprocated by adopting it as his home base.
There were interesting similarities in spirit between Johnstown and Grande Prairie that helped Galen adjust to his new surroundings and made him feel at home.
In Johnstown there was a War Memorial Arena and a newspaper known as the Tribune-Democrat.
Like Grande Prairie, Johnstown was a hockey town. Both had rough and tumble characteristics and the hockey fans liked a rugged game.
Galen's connection to Johnstown was cemented at a later time when he met and married Gracie, a local woman and, some time later, their two sons were born – but that's getting ahead of our story.
In Galen's adopted city a new support system quickly developed around him. It included Mike Mastovich, a distinguished sports historian and sports reporter with the Tribune-Democrat who admired Galen and followed him carefully.
In an article following his first season in Johnstown, Mastovich reported that "Head's impact as a player with the Jets was remarkable.
The 5-foot-9, 160-pound right wing broke into the organization in 1967-68 in the former Eastern Hockey League. As a rookie, Head scored 53 goals and 105 points in 70 games."
Galen's performance as a rookie with Johnstown resulted in a call from the Red Wings and he played six or seven shifts in one game against Toronto. In the same season Galen played four games with the Fort Worth Wings and made contributions during the playoffs in both Fort Worth and Johnstown.
Galen's best season in Johnstown was during the 1968–69 season when he scored 67 goals, along with 54 assists for a total of 121 points. Galen's performance that year raised eyebrows in Detroit and for the 1969-70 season, he was moved to Salt Lake City to play for the Golden Eagles.
His next step would have been to the NHL, but a serious injury ended his season early and the injury likely prevented him from returning to the NHL.
For the next six seasons Galen played with Johnstown and became one of the city's most popular players.
Along the way he had some interesting adventures with the Jets. At one point the Jet's coach resigned without providing notice and for a brief period Galen suddenly became the team's playing coach.
In 1973-74 he was officially named playing coach of the Jets and later he served as the team's captain.
In the 1976 playoffs during Galen's last season as a player, the Jets and their opponents, the Buffalo Norsemen, were involved in a legendary pre-game brawl reminiscent of scenes in the movie Slap Shot.
It was a decisive fifth game in the playoff series that ended without a shot being fired on goal.The opposition refused to return to the ice after the brawl and forfeited the game.
That night the standing room-only fans in Johnstown saw a fight but no game and after the fight, two police officers and their dogs escorted the Norsemen from the arena.
There is something prophetic about this incident: Later that year Universal Studios filmed Slap Shot in Johnstown. Galen was captain of the team that inspired the movie, games were filmed in the Memorial Arena and the infamous Hanson brothers were members of the 1976 Jets squad.
Galen's wife, Gracie, played Pam, one of the player's wives, and she states that she still receives a cheque every time the movie is played on TV.
According to Mastovich, "Head's 308 goals rank third all-time in Johnstown history and his 601 points rank fourth. He also had 293 assists, sixth all-time.
For eight seasons and 561 games, No. 8 was Johnstown's number-one ambassador on the ice.
Galen Head, the prolific scorer, team leader, gentleman, and all-around good guy, represented the Jets as a star player, team captain, and player coach."

More Galen Head articles, photos, etc...

No. 8 Joining Johnstowns Elite by Mike Mastovich, Johnstown Tribune-Democrat

Galen Head at

Galen Head's Statistics at

GJ Head's Oldtime Hockey Photostream at Flickr

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