Norwegian Hockey Fans Visit Johnstown

By Mike Mastovich
The Tribune-Democrat

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – The final leg of an international tour stopped at Cambria County War Memorial Arena on Saturday night.

But no big-name rock star was in town.

No monster truck show or Disney on Ice production, either.

Instead, four hardcore hockey fans from Norway parked a RV a few blocks from the arena and marched into the building where “Slap Shot” was filmed.

These guys came for the Johnstown Chiefs’ ECHL game against the Cincinnati Cyclones. But of perhaps greater significance, “The Do It Right or Don’t Do It At All Tour” concluded in the Flood City after 14 days and approximately 3,200 miles at a cost of about $3,000 per man.

“It’s usually 10 days, but this time it’s 14 days and we decided to try to see as many leagues as possible,” said Jon Manum of Sarpsborg, Norway. “Sometimes we try to do as many NHL teams as possible. This time we switched it around a little bit and this is the last game.”

This fall’s tour opened on Oct. 18 at Madison Square Garden as the NHL’s New York Rangers played the Nashville Predators.

There were visits to cities with teams in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the Ontario Hockey League, Central Hockey League and American Hockey League.

Manum, Paul-Fredrik Paulsen, Ole-Martin Bakke and Rune Solhaug traveled via a commercial airline across the Atlantic Ocean, rented an oversized RV in New York and drove about 3,200 miles throughout the United States and Canada while on their annual journey.

“Basically we get away from work,” said Manum, 40, who runs his own business as a contractor. “It’s a goal every six months to come over.”

Bridgeport, Conn., Youngstown, Ohio, and Flint, Mich., in the U.S. Ottawa and Kitchener in Ontario. These are only a few minor pro and junior hockey hotspots on the itinerary.

More details and photos can be found at the official Web site
www.vikingsontour.com.

Of course, the visit to the War Memorial evoked the usual memories of “Slap Shot,” the Paul Newman movie filmed in Johnstown in 1976 and based on the 1974-75 NAHL champion Jets.

“It’s really fun to be here,” Paulsen said. “I looked around and was able to see everything like it was in the movie.”

The group plans trips each spring and fall during hockey season.

“We are working all the time,” said Paulsen, a 39-year-old who runs a trucking business in Fredrikstad, Norway. “I own my own company and it’s easy to take leave.

“We rent a big RV,” Paulsen said. “When we come to an arena, they see us and it’s really fun.”

But doesn’t all of that travel time through the air and on the highways take a toll?

“I like everything about the trip,” said Bakke, 25, of Sarpsborg. “I love hockey. It’s a chance to get away from home and see another country. We see a lot of great players in the NHL, but you don’t get the atmosphere that’s in the minor league.”

The Vikings soaked up that atmosphere before and during the Chiefs’ game. They took photos of action on the ice and fans in the hallway. They stopped in the press box and did a radio interview.

While posing for a photo, Paulsen said, “This is a famous press box. We have to have a picture.”

The Chiefs and Cyclones were quite a contrast from the Rangers and Predators. But the Vikings didn’t seem to mind.

“The lower you get in the leagues, the better it is,” Manum said. “The fans are better. The atmosphere around the arena is better.”