By Mike Mastovich
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – Brent Bilodeau and Jeff Sullivan (pictured) earned plenty of respect during their six seasons as members of the Johnstown Chiefs.
That much was very evident during a moving pregame ceremony for the two retiring players who set career records and were part of four playoff teams since 1999-2000.
A Cambria County War Memorial Arena crowd of 2,414 stood and cheered. Some of the fans held signs saluting the players, who each appeared to be truly moved by the tribute.
The rest of the Chiefs gathered on the ice, watching intently as businessmen Frank Arcurio and David Pentrack presented commemorative watches. Then, GM Jim Brazill, coach Toby O’Brien and equipment manager Mic Midderhoff handed Bilodeau and Sullivan framed Chiefs jerseys with their numbers and the captain’s “C.”
A few feet away from center ice, mixed in with those hometown players wearing black and gold uniforms, were two skaters dressed in Atlantic City teal, purple and white.
Former Chiefs captain Shawn Mather and ex-Johnstown all-star Jason Notermann each took a knee near the Chiefs and honored two of their former teammates.
That’s something you won’t see every night in the ECHL. That’s also proof of the impact veteran, blue-collar players such as Bilodeau, 32, and Sullivan, 26, have on young prospects.
Former Chiefs coach Scott Allen telephoned the Johnstown locker room earlier in the afternoon and congratulated Bilodeau and Sullivan via speaker phone. Allen is a coach with the AHL Lowell Lock Monsters.
Former Chiefs athletic trainer Chris Stewart of Johnstown also works for the Lock Monsters, and he had his time on the long-distance call.
The Chiefs in particular, and Johnstown in general, will certainly miss Bilodeau, who played 414 games – the most of any Chiefs player ever – and Sullivan, who with 1,205 penalty minutes is the career leader in the history of Johnstown professional hockey.