By Mike Mastovich
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – One season at a time, Jim Brazill worked his way through the ECHL Johnstown Chiefs organization.
From a role as an intern, to director of business operations, to director of ticketing, to director of sales, to assistant general manager, Brazill climbed the ladder.
Last season, the Upper Yoder Township resident made the big jump to general manager and was among three runners-up for ECHL Executive of the Year and the Chiefs’ front office was recognized by the league.
Yesterday, the Chiefs ownership group rewarded Brazill with a two-year contract extension through the 2005-06 season. Traditionally, Chiefs GMs and coaches work on a year-to-year basis.
“It’s exciting for me to know that Neil Smith and Rick Adams have the confidence in me to lead their team for at least the next two years,” Brazill said of the majority and minority owners.
Brazill, 34, is entering his 12th season with the Chiefs. He is one of four GMs in the team’s 17-year history, joining the late John Daley, Eddie Johnstone and current coach Toby O’Brien. Les Crooks served as president of the team for two seasons, a role similar to GM.
“All the ownership groups over the years have been wonderful to work for,” Brazill said. “I owe a lot to Toby O’Brien and Jim Edwards for all they have done over the years to help me grow into the role.”
During his first season as GM, Brazill and the Chiefs had a memorable run.
The team set records in wins (45), points (97), fewest goals allowed (195), home wins (26), road wins (19) and went an impressive 28-6-4 in their final 38 games before losing a one-game playoff to Reading.
The Chiefs increased their attendance by 14 percent from the previous season as 91,837 fans attended 36 home dates, an average of 2,551. For the first time since 1991-92, the team had six home sellouts, including the largest crowd to watch a Chiefs regular-season game, 4,191 on Nov. 14 against Wheeling.
“Jim has been with the team a long time and has done so many great things for the Chiefs,” minority owner Adams said. “We are very confident in his leadership of the team as we continue to build on our success from the 2003-04 season.”
On the downside, the team almost lost its home ice in February after heavy snow, ice and rain caused a portion of the roof and a non-weight-bearing wall to crumble at Cambria County War Memorial Arena. The arena and team adapted as makeshift repairs were made, limiting the seating capacity, but allowing the Chiefs and their fans to finish out the season.
“There were a lot of highs and lows, but the bottom line and most important thing is we kept Chiefs hockey alive in Johnstown,” Brazill said. “All the on-ice and off-ice success of last year is over. We need to build on that and continue in years down the line.”
Brazill said the Chiefs have sold 820 full season ticket equivalents, 98 ahead of last year’s pace.
“That is good because last year we paced about 100 ahead of the previous year,” Brazill said. “I think we have a real good chance at 1,000 this year. There still are a lot of renewals out there that have not come in yet. Traditionally in mid- to late-August things start to pick up again. A lot of the tickets that have not been renewed are the ones who have been around for years, and I’m confident we’ll have them back in here.”