Hello all! I just arrived in sunny Irvine, California where, get this, my hotel doesn’t carry NBCSN. That’s right, for the next three and a half weeks, I am without the national broadcaster of the NHL.
Frankly, I may not survive.
Opening night will be bad enough, but tonight is the Kraft Hockeyville game in Johnstown, PA, followed by Slap Shot the movie, and frankly, this game is more important to me. I have always had a fond spot for Johnstown. I’ve visited it several time, so it pains me to have to find a Buffalo Wild Wings or some bar to watch it in, where the sound won’t be turned on and they keep staring at me to give up my table to the family of sixteen that just came in.
Johnstown will be gussied up, dressed to the nines, and the coverage might show, for the briefest of moments, the hard times that have fallen on Johnstown (probably with a few slow and sad piano chords, and a quick transition back to happier music or intense hockey action), and the various changes to their local hockey scene.
They won’t talk about the ECHL Chiefs moving to Greenville, SC, after a little over 20 years in the league by majority owner Neal Smith. They won’t talk about the recent closing of the NAHL Keystone Ice Miners, a nearby franchise that moved closer to Johnstown, helping to ease the travel burdens on the current War Memorial resident, the Johnstown Tomahawks.
And because this is TV, they might show you some of the town, a bit of downtown that has been boarded up and left to rot, abandoned storefronts and houses falling to the ground. They may gloss over the people still making a go of it, near the channel that runs through town, that flooded the city several times and defined the town more than hockey did.
One of my best Johnstown experiences is wearing my Johnstown Chiefs jersey and having people stop me to ask me if I’m from Johnstown. They know the jersey in a second. They talk about a parent or friend that lived there, or that they themselves are from the city. They talk about Johnstown and almost all of them love the city. The hard times it’s fallen on usually made it difficult to stay, so they left.
So in honor of a town that is close to my heart, here are the posts from my time in Johnstown, from two separate stops separated by six and a half years.
First stop through Johnstown, February 2008:
My more recent stop through Johnstown:
If you have the time to read only one of those posts, look at that last one. It helps show the Johnstown that came to be after the movie ended, the mill closed up, and the hockey team folded.
I wish I could be in Johnstown today. Like Wheeling, WV, Port Huron, MI, Sault St. Marie, MI, Gatineau, QB, and so many others that don’t get their due, it’s a real hockey town.