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Johnstown begins new hockey era

August 21, 2012
By Michael Boytim ( , The Altoona Mirror

JOHNSTOWN - The Johnstown Tomahawks' logo looks similar to the old Johnstown Chiefs one.

Former Pittsburgh Steeler and Penn State linebacker Jack Ham is hoping the crowds that come to see the NAHL Tier II Junior hockey team will be just as similar.

"I was around when they had the Johnstown Jets here," Ham said. "I don't want to date myself, but Don Hall [who played for the Jets for 11 years] was one of my heroes growing up. I go back on hockey here quite a many years.

"I think this kind of a league is a great opportunity for fans to come out to a perfect venue at the Cambria County War Memorial. It's an intimate, ideal place. I'm hoping fans come out. I think they'll see some fine hockey."

Ham and fellow part-owner Shane Conlan, who also played linebacker at Penn State, took part in a golf tournament at Sunnehanna Country Club Monday to raise money for the Tomahawks.

Ham played some hockey as a child at the War Memorial but got interested in the Tomahawks when he got a call from majority owner James Bouchard.

"I've known Jim Bouchard in Pittsburgh for a long time," Ham said. "When he presented this opportunity to me, with a chance to be in Johnstown, my hometown, it just seemed like a natural fit."

Conlan also played linebacker at Penn State, went on to be an All-Pro in the NFL and is invested in the Tomahawks. But Conlan never played any hockey.

"I don't know anything about hockey, really," Conlan said. "Jim Bouchard called and told me the Penn State deal is pretty close, and I told him Jack Ham grew up [in Johnstown] and that's how it got started. It was Jim's vision to bring a team here from Alaska, and the ownership is spread around."

Johnstown, which will be made up from players anywhere from 16- to 20-years old, will begin its first season on Sept. 8 at Port Huron. The Tomahawks' home opener is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 29 when they host Michigan.

Ex-Chief Jason Spence will coach the squad. Spence played 262 regular season games with Johnstown before becoming an assistant coach. Johnstown's home games will be held at the Cambria County War Memorial, and ticket prices range from $6 to $12.

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