By Mike Mastovich
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – The most important development on the Cambria County War Memorial Arena ice last night had nothing to do with flying pucks, body checks or acrobatic saves.
During the first intermission of the Johnstown Chiefs’ game against the visiting Reading Royals, the arena staff rolled out a carpet and quickly hauled a table and black table cloth to center ice.
Chiefs General Manager Jim Brazill and Cambria County’s three commissioners, each wearing a Chiefs jersey, signed a two-year lease with an option for an additional two seasons after that.
Johnstown’s hockey fans breathed a figurative sigh of relief.
This signing assured that the ECHL Chiefs will remain in Johnstown for at least two more seasons.
Brazill, whose staff has helped increase attendance and meet revenue goals set by owners Neil Smith and Rick Adams, provided an appropriate introduction.
The 12-year Chiefs staffer recited a pledge that appeared in the 1957-58 Johnstown Jets season ticket brochure. The Jets owners had thanked the fans for turning out and enabling the team to remain in the city.
“For 47 years they’ve said, ‘If you support us, we’ll stay,’ ” Brazill said.
The GM noted that the promise majority owner Smith and minority owner Adams made when they purchased the team in June 2002 has been heard many times before during Johnstown’s hockey history that dates to 1941.
At one point, Brazill paused and some in a crowd of 2,316 tooted air horns. After Brazill officially announced the team would be back, the crowd chanted, “Let’s Go Chiefs, Let’s Go Chiefs.”
Commissioners P.J. Stevens, Milan Gjurich and William Harris took turns signing the lease, followed by Brazill.
Owner Adams watched from the auxiliary press box and smiled.