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.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Johnstown Jets' Dave Birch in Charity Sled Hockey Game Today

The Johnstown Sitting Bulls sled hockey team will seek to raise funds with the help of some familiar faces March 27.

The team for players with disabilities will take on a squad of local educators , celebrities and media members in the Sitting Bulls' second annual fundraiser.

"We're just hoping for a fun day on the ice," said team business manager Jennifer Buchkovich. "We want to introduce sled hockey to as many people as we can."

The Sitting Bulls will be assisted by 2003 United High School graduate Josh Wirt, a member of the 2002 gold medal-winning Paralympic sled hockey team.

Other participants in the game will include educators Nathan Bevard and Randy Rearick, of United High School; Michelle Varner, of Forest Hills Elementary; Brandon Bailey, of Richland High School; Eric Adams and Bob Rhine, of Saint Andrews Elementary; and Max Shoemaker, of Chestnut Ridge Middle School. The game will also feature Johnstown Chiefs general manager Bill Bredin and assistant coach Jason Spence, former Johnstown Jets player Dave Birch, Jack Michaels and Mike Stevens of radio station 96 Key, "Totally Bubba" of Froggy 95, Dr. Kim Marley of Alleghenies Surgical and WJAC-TV meteorologist Jim Burton, who emceed last year's charity game between the Pittsburgh Mighty Penguins and the Bishop McCort varsity hockey team.

Buchkovich said last year's event was a success on and off the ice, raising "a couple thousand" dollars and spreading awareness of the sport.

The Sitting Bulls have drawn considerable attention to the sport since forming the team two years ago. The team has received grants for equipment and promotion from the Lee Foundation and the Community Foundation of the Alleghenies, and was also the subject of a segment shown on Fox Sports Pittsburgh during intermission of a Pittsburgh Penguins game this season.

"We got a lot of positive feedback from that," Buchkovich said. "We even received a couple of donations from some viewers who wanted to help our kids."

On the ice, the Sitting Bulls are making strides as well. The 13-member team, which has players ranging from a first-grader to a high school senior, claimed its first victory in competitive play in January at a tournament in Columbus, Ohio. Next month, the team will head to the National Disabled Hockey Festival in Laurel, Md., to be held April 8-11.

But first, the team is focused on the March 27 exhibition game.

"We want our spectators and the opposing team to gain an appreciation of the athletic talent it takes to play sled hockey," Buchkovich said.

The game begins at the Cambria County War Memorial at noon. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for students. Children under 5 will be admitted free.

Various raffles and silent auctions will be held during the game, with available items including a replica Evgeni Malkin Pittsburgh Penguins jersey signed by the 2009-10 Penguins team.

For additional information, contact Buchkovich at (814) 487-4506.

Photo courtesy Tim Barndt.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Galen Head Redirects Johnstown Chiefs' Charity

March 25, 2010

Ex-hockey star declines Chiefs' charity

JOHNSTOWN — Galen Head appreciated the good intentions, but the former Johnstown Jets star has asked that the kindness be directed to someone else in need.

Head has been battling multiple health problems during the past several months.

Word reached the Johnstown Chiefs office, and the ECHL team initiated an effort to raise funds for Head’s medical expenses.

The Chiefs distributed a news release on Wednesday announcing fundraisers to be held at two of the final home games before the team moves to Greenville, S.C. The Tribune-Democrat ran the release in its Thursday edition and other media outlets reported the story in an effort to boost the fundraising for one of the most popular and successful players in Johnstown hockey history.

But Head, who will turn 63 next month, preferred to remain out of the spotlight as he and his wife, Gracie, and their family move forward.

“My health is a private matter between me and my family,” Head said after calling The Tribune-Democrat on Thursday.

“I’m feeling much better. I’m battling my illnesses, and I feel good about it. I’m going to survive. I’m not going away. I’m going to be around.”

While he was moved by the good will, Head felt any money raised should go to help others.

“If they want to continue with the fund-raiser in my name that’s fine,” Head said. “There are a number of children here (in Johnstown) who are traveling back and forth to Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh. Maybe it could be used for them. Somebody could use it more than I could. I really do appreciate the gesture. It’s an honest gesture and a well-meaning gesture. But I feel there are other people who could benefit from such a fundraiser.”

Chiefs General Manager Bill Bredin could not be reached Thursday.

The team did release a statement that the fundraising effort will continue during Sunday’s home game and the season and historic finale on April 3.

On Sunday, fans may purchase tickets to win a Galen Head replica No. 8 jersey. On April 3, an authentic, autographed Sidney Crosby jersey will be raffled off.

“It’s important that we still make an effort to help Galen out. If he would like to give the money to another cause, we definitely support that 100 percent,” the Chiefs statement said.

“That shows the kind of person that he is. He cares about others so much that he wants to give back to others.”

Head scored 308 goals and 601 points in eight seasons with the Jets and captained the

1974-75 NAHL Lockhart Cup championship team. His No. 8 jersey was retired in 2003 and a commemorative banner hangs in the rafters at Cambria County War Memorial Arena. The Cambria County Sports Hall of Fame (2006) and Grande Prairie (Alberta) Hall of Fame each inducted Head.

He was one of the founders of the perennially tough Bishop McCort High School team and coached the Crushers to three of their five state championships.

In the mid-1990s Head became a volunteer assistant coach with the ECHL’s Chiefs and served in that capacity for a number of years.

The Galen Head Jr. Memorial Scholarship benefits area high school hockey players and is in honor of Head’s son, a former Chiefs and AHL-IHL equipment manager who died in an automobile accident in 1996.

Photo courtesy Tim Barndt.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Johnstown Chiefs to Raise Funds for Jet Great, Galen Head

Chiefs To Raise Funds For Former Player
March 24, 2010 - ECHL (ECHL) Johnstown Chiefs

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. - The Johnstown Chiefs announced today that they will be holding fundraisers at two of their remaining home games to benefit one of Johnstown's greatest players.
Galen Head, who scored 601 points in eight seasons with the Johnstown Jets, was recently admitted to Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center. In an effort to assist with costs associated with his stay in the hospital the Chiefs will be raffling off a pair of special jerseys. On March 28 fans can purchase tickets to win a Galen Head replica Jets jersey while on April 3 an authentic, autographed Sidney Crosby jersey will be up for grabs. Raffle tickets can be purchased individually for five dollars or in groups of six for $20. All proceeds from the jersey raffles will benefit Mr. Head, and fans wishing to make cash donations will be able to at all remaining home games.

Photo courtesy Tim Barndt.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Gaye Cooley and Fred Creighton - Charlotte Hockey Hall Of Fame 2010 Class
Charlotte Hockey Hall Of Fame 2010 Class Announced

CHARLOTTE, NC-The 2010 class of inductees for the Charlotte Hockey Hall of Fame, presented by American Airlines, was announced today and will include former goaltender Gaye Cooley, former player and coach Fred Creighton and Cliff Mehrtens, the ECHL Checkers' beat writer since the team's inception in 1993.

The three will be honored during the second intermission of Friday's game when the Checkers host the Trenton Devils at Time Warner Cable Arena.

Cooley played five seasons in Charlotte and backstopped the Checkers to three championships - one in the EHL in 1971-72 and back-to-back SHL titles in 1974-75 and 1975-76. The Kirkland Lake, Ontario native was a three-time EHL All-Star and led the league in goals against average in 1971-72 and 1974-75. Cooley recorded 16 shutouts and posted a 2.87 career GAA in 181 games as a Checker.

Prior to joining the pro ranks, Cooley played at Michigan State and led the Spartans to the 1965-66 NCAA National Championship. He ranks sixth in all-time save percentage at Michigan State and held the school record for career save percentage throughout the 60's and 70's.

Cooley joins Nick Vitucci as the only two goaltenders in the Charlotte Hockey Hall of Fame.

Creighton played four seasons in a Checkers uniform before stepping behind the bench for seven as the team's head coach. He compiled 90 points and 389 penalty minutes in 204 games as a player and a 294-178-35 (.614) record as a coach.

As Checkers head coach, the native of Port Arthur, Ontario had six consecutive seasons above.500 and helped the team to back-to-back league championships in 1970-71 and 1971-72.

Creighton went on to become head coach of the NHL's Atlanta Flames for five seasons and the Boston Bruins for a single season in 1979-80. He was twice named Minor League Hockey Coach of the Year and won four championships in 22 seasons as a head coach. Creighton was also recently inducted into the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame.
Charlotte Hockey Hall of Fame

Fred Creighton at Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Story of Uline Arena from Wizards Magazine

Uline Arena in Washington was an essential part of EHL hockey in the 1950s. It was home of the Lions (1954-57) and Presidents (1957-1960). I don't think this video from 2007 even mentions hockey, but is well worth the view for anyone who saw a game there or have never heard of it before. The Arena has been a transfer station for Waste Management, but in the video you can see it as a parking lot - seats and owners box intact, sort of. The video was for Washington Wizards Magazine.

* DC Preservation League Uline Page
* Uline Destined for New Life - NoMaNews, December 2007
* As decades pass, a coliseum's glory days go to waste - Washington Business Journal April 16, 2001
* Uline Photo Stream on Flickrby Richard Layman
* A Short Pictorial History of Uline Arena by Patrick Weadon

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Don Labelle Coaches Knoxville Tonight

One of the reasons I started this blog was to be able to present timely information on EHL events. So, if you happen to live within an hour and and a half of Knoxville, jump in your car and get down to the Civic Coliseum. At 5 PM tonight March 13th...

players from all four hockey teams that have called Knoxville home will take to the ice in a special Legends game. Legends Night is dedicated to those hockey greats that have played in Knoxville and helped the sport become a vital part of the Knoxville community. The Knoxville Knights (1961-1968), Knoxville Cherokees (1988-1997), Knoxville Speed (1999-2002) and the Knoxville Ice Bears (2002-present) will be represented in the game. The Legends game will begin at 5:00 p.m. at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum, where all four teams played. Representing the Knoxville Knights will be Don LaBelle. Originally from Montreal, Quebec, LaBelle was a defenseman for the Knights and will be coaching during the Legends game.

Be sure to notice where they got the Don LaBelle photo. Well, if I can't be timely, at least I'm a good source of EHL photos that people can use on the web.

P.S. ...
Legends Postgame Party at Ray’s ESG date: 03/13/2010 Join Knoxville hockey legends and the current Knoxville Ice Bears players at Ray's ESG immediately after the game on Saturday for a postgame party.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Gene Peacosh Retrospective on YouTube

Special thanks to Johnstown Jets fan Tim Barndt for finding this video on Gene Peacosh. It's by rdsmith1964 on YouTube.

Gene Peacosh at

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