PITTSBURGH - This looks like a sad case of life imitating art.
Published reports say this is the last season for the Johnstown Chiefs of the East Coast Hockey League.
The struggling franchise is apparently set to move to Greenville, S.C. for next season.
If you've watched the classic movie "Slap Shot," you know that a southern move is a key plot element.
The Chiefs' cinematic home is "Charlestown," but it's really Johnstown, of course. There's no effort to disguise that.
Now it looks like the depressing scenario is playing out in real life, and the estimable War Memorial Arena won't have hockey next season.
Johnstown has a long hockey history, and part of it inspired screenwriter Nancy Dowd to create "Slap Shot" in the mid-1970s.
When the movie came out in 1977, a lot of hockey people were upset with the portrayal of their game.
And while there were cartoon-like exaggerations, they didn't stray all that far from fact.
Some of the outraged hockey people would tell stories from their own minor league experiences, and they were every bit as outlandish as the scenes that played out on the screen.
Back in the pre-cable days, our outside rotor antenna could pick up WJAC-TV and I came to be a regular viewer of the station's 6 o'clock news broadcast.
They started with Bill Wilson's 10-minute sportscast, then had a five-minute weather segment before the news started at 6:15.
I can't remember how many times Wilson would open his sportscast with, "Well, it was a wild one at the War Memorial last night," as they switched to grainy film of guys throwing punches at each other.
Seems like bench-clearing brawls were the rule rather than the exception then.
Hockey's popularity has grown in this region because of the Penguins' success, and maybe that worked against the Chiefs. If you can watch the Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers on TV, are you really interested in attending a minor league game with a much slower pace and lower level of play?
There's a constant brisk business in Charlestown Chiefs gear on eBay. On the Johnstown Chiefs website, the merchandise section is "under construction."
As gloomy as it looks, there's still apparently a very slim chance someone could step up and keep the Chiefs in Johnstown.
Maybe there's a rich widow who would be interested.
It would be nice if that happened, but it's probably not wise to count on it.
Mehno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.