Monday, March 29, 2010

Pa. city losing hockey team, just like 'Slap Shot'

If you haven't read it in your local paper, here's the AP article on the Johnstown Chiefs upcoming last game. Reg Kent comes in at the end. The author says that Kent was the inspiration for Paul Newman's Reg Dunlop in Slapshot. I don't know if this is true, but it makes at least as much sense as the insistance of many that John Brophy was the inspiration. But that's another blog - once I've re-rented the movie.

For now, back to proper respect to Johnstown fans.
Full AP article:
Pa. city losing hockey team, just like 'Slap Shot'
By JOE MANDAK (AP) JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — Thirty-three years after the movie "Slap Shot" was released as an barely fictionalized account of minor-league hockey in Johnstown, the real-life Johnstown Chiefs are moving to Greenville, S.C.

"Slap Shot" was based on the Johnstown Jets, who folded in 1977, the same year the movie was released. But the Chiefs were born in 1988 largely because "Slap Shot" — which featured the fictional Charlestown Chiefs — kept the idea of hockey in Johnstown alive. In the movie, the team was about to fold but the coach boosted player morale by lying that the team would move down south at season's end.

Now, a poor economy, mounting debts and slight attendance are forcing Chiefs owner Neil Smith to move the team for real. Their last game in Johnstown is April 3.
Trouble is, hockey in rough-and-tumble Johnstown, about 60 miles east of Pittsburgh, sells better on DVD these days. Now, Smith's pipe dream is selling out the team's farewell game Saturday at the 4,001-seat arena, built in 1950.

Despite a top ticket of $14 and no seat more than 15 rows from the ice, the Chiefs have only 900 season ticket holders and appeared lucky to draw two-thirds as many fans on a recent Wednesday night. Smith needed 2,700 fans each night to break even.
The movie was set in the fictional Federal League. But a Federal League also exists on paper and hopes to begin play in the fall with a team in Johnstown, commissioner Don Kirnan said.
Reg Kent and his wife, Barbara, are game-day regulars. Kent inspired Paul Newman's Reg Dunlop character, and taught the actor how to use a hockey stick. Kent was the Jets' leading scorer for several of his nine seasons in the 1960s and 70s, when players were local matinee idols.

"I started back in '65 when the town was vibrant: The mills were working around the clock; the mines were 'round the clock," Kent said. "There's been a pretty big change here in this town.

"It's just kind of a slow death."

Reg Kent photo courtesy of Tim Barndt.

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