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Tomahawks Winning On and Off the Ice: Part One - Junior Hockey News

Published: Saturday, 5 Jan 2013
By: Michael Gosnell

The Johnstown Tomahawks latest chapter in the book of Johnstown hockey. This article is one of three articles that will highlight what the Tomahawks have meant to the community. You will hear from die-hard hockey fans who have witnessed almost 60 years of hockey in Johnstown, a volunteer who gets to do what he loves with the new team and a business owner, whose business is located steps away from the Cambria County War Memorial Arena. You will find out that the Tomahawks are more than just a hockey team.

To say that hockey means a lot to the city of Johnstown, Pennsylvania is a major understatement.

The city's love affair with the sport of ice hockey goes back to the 1940s, when the Johnstown Bluebirds took the ice at Shaffer Ice Arena.

The Bluebirds eventually folded and in their place came the Johnstown Jets.

The Jets are possibly the team that is remembered more fondly than their predecessors, the Johnstown Chiefs.

Now that the Tomahawks have settled in Johnstown, hockey fans who attended Jets and Chiefs games in the past have become Tomahawks fans.

Die-Hard hockey fans Paul and Anna Marie Marsh have attended their fair share of hockey games.

"I started in the 1958-59 season; that was the Jets," said Paul Marsh. "I didn't get my first season ticket until 1971."

Anna Marie Marsh stated she started attending games in 1962.

The Jets folded in 1977 after a flood devastated the Johnstown community and left the city without a full-time hockey team until 1989 when the Chiefs arrived to bring hockey back to the city.

The Chiefs had a tumultuous existence. Rumors about the team's demise turned about every year and the on-ice performances weakened, especially in their final years.

"You could tell they didn't care in their last couple of years," said Paul Marsh.

"I would have to agree with that, too. It seemed like they were out there skating around," Anna Marie Marsh added.

Both agreed that their on-ice performances were a major factor in the team's poor attendance over their final years.

As far as the Chiefs off-ice work, Paul Marsh had this to say.

"In the beginning it was better than it was in the end. They would have a season ticket holder banquet and other things."

Of course, with dwindling interest from the community, the Chiefs relocated to Greenville, SC, leaving the city without a full-time team.

The Wheeling Nailers, the Chiefs old rival, played ten games in Johnstown for two seasons, but ultimately were sold to new ownership that ended the Johnstown part of the schedule.

Paul Marsh thinks that the experiment did more harm than good.

"It turned a lot of people off," Paul Marsh said. "You really did not get a chance to follow them too much. I'm a die-hard and the ones that were sitting on the fence could not get interested at all."

"I thought it was nice of the Wheeling organization to do that but I wasn't like having your own team," Anna Marie Marsh said.

Enter the Tomahawks, who had just a few months to win over a community that lost a professional team that called Johnstown home for over 20 years.

Many fans were skeptical of the team. Fans called the hockey "high school hockey" and did not want to spend the money to watch them.

The Marshes were among the skeptical fans.

"I wasn't sure I was even going to get a season ticket," Paul Marsh said. 'But the more they kept saying this is going to be better than a high school game, I said ok, we will get the ticket."

The Tomahawks eventual won Paul over and he stated that the action of the game won him over.

"These guys give 110 percent every night," Paul Marsh said.

"On the Chiefs there were a lot of individuals," said Anna Marie Marsh. "On the Tomahawks they play as a team."

The Tomahawks organization has received praise for their work in the community from many fans, including Paul and Anna Marie

"The team is out there; they mingle with the fans, they go to the mall, they are out there helping the community, more so than the other teams did," said Anna Marie Marsh.

The Tomahawks have collaborated with the American Red Cross for Blood Drives and have taken part in many other events in the community.

Paul and Anna Marie also praised the Tomahawks for bringing in former Chiefs players Rick Boyd and Jason Spence.

"You couldn't ask for a better coach than Jason; Jason is good," Anna Marie Marsh said. "I think Rick will do a great job."

"I'm happy with the way things are going," said Paul Marsh.

In addition to the performance on the ice, the Tomahawks have started to win over the season ticket holders that were die-hard Johnstown Chiefs fans according to Paul Marsh.

Attendance figures have been great so far in Johnstown. The team is averaging 2,313 fans per game, which is fifth in the league.

"Many people I have talked to said they won't buy tickets," Paul Marsh said. "Well, they have finally come around. The die-hards love their hockey. The product is better."

Paul and Anna Marie Marsh have attended their fair share of hockey games. The couple has traveled to many cities like Cincinnati, Detroit, Reading and Trenton to watch hockey.

They have attended games where the home team has won championships. The couple witnessed the ECHL's Greenville Grrrowl captured their first Kelly Cup in 2001-02 and they traveled to Philadelphia to see the Philadelphia Phantoms capture the Calder Cup in 2005.

Both Paul and Anna Marie said they are thoroughly impressed with the organization and Paul had this to say in closing.

"I know that we will be in line next year for season tickets."


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* Article disclaimer: This site may contain advice, opinions and statements from various authors and information providers. Views expressed in this article reflect the personal opinion of the author, Michael Gosnell, and not necessarily the views of JuniorHockey.com. JuniorHockey.com does not represent or endorse the accuracy or reliability of any advice, opinion, statement or other info provided in the article, or from any other member of this site.

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