Kraft Hockeyville: Penn Power

Johnstown, Pa. Inks Winning Essay To Claim Kraft Hockeyville USA Title

When Logan Glessner stepped foot on the pristine ice at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena, it was one small step for the 8-year-old hockey player and one giant leap for hockey in Johnstown, Pa.

Joining Glessner on the ice was Don Hall, a local legend in the Johnstown hockey community who came to town with the Jets during the 1951-52 Eastern Hockey League season and never left.

To be the first person to step on the ice at the newly renovated War Memorial Arena, which holds so many memories, and to be involved with the Kraft Hockeyville USA™ festivities were the culmination of a lifetime’s worth of work.

Hall, who is 85 years young, laced up his skates for the first time in 30 years and took a seat at center ice for a quick photo op as the past, present and future came together to kick off the biggest event in this hockey-mad community’s history since Paul Newman came to town to film the iconic movie, “Slap Shot.”

“That’s what this is all about,” said Logan’s father, Chris, who is the vice president of the Warriors Youth Hockey program and a driving force behind much of the efforts of the local organizing committee to stage a memorable event.

“It gave me chills, as a father, to see my son be the first player to skate out on the ice and to be there with Don Hall, a local hockey hero. He set the tone here in Johnstown and created the hockey culture that is still going strong today.”

It was a fitting start to a fun week centered around Kraft Hockeyville USA™ festivities that culminated with an NHL® preseason game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning that was aired live on NBCSN.

What started with an essay written by Holly Lees, a local junior hockey billet mom, quickly turned into a movement that galvanized an entire community and helped Johnstown edge Decatur, Ill., once a record 20 million votes were tallied.

“It’s pretty overwhelming,” Lees said. “This is going to create more kids playing hockey. It’s pretty exciting for the whole community and anyone who loves hockey.”

Once the top 10 communities were announced, that’s when the organizers began to think that Johnstown actually had a shot of winning. From there, local businesses proudly displayed signs coaxing people to vote. And by the time NHL® Commissioner Gary Bettman announced the winner on May 2, there was hardly a soul for miles around who didn’t get caught up in the excitement.

Even members of the Lightning and Penguins couldn’t help but get caught up in the hype.

Jon Cooper, the head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning, didn’t need any more proof that Johnstown was the right town to wear the mantle as the inaugural winner of Kraft Hockeyville USA™, when he stepped on the ice to a thunderous ovation from the near capacity crowd that circled the arena.

“Did you see the amount of people out there? It was unreal,” Cooper said after his team’s morning skate.“I don’t know how to describe the pregame skate in front of a packed house.

“I see why they were crowned Kraft Hockeyville.”

In addition to earning the title of Kraft Hockeyville USA™, Johnstown received $150,000 to upgrade the War Memorial with new lights, sound system, and NHL®-quality boards and glass. The renovations helped breathe new life into the 65-year-old arena, and more importantly it has brought a renewed sense of pride to a passionate hockey community.

And thanks to Kraft Heinz, this is only the beginning. Local youth hockey leaders are hoping to keep the wave of momentum moving forward by showing the same teamwork and commitment that made Johnstown the first Kraft Hockeyville USA™ to get even more kids in the game.

“I’m excited for the little guys who are learning to play hockey. I’m excited for their future and that they’ll be able to play in a rink like this,” said Lees, whose 6-year-old grandson Bailey recently started playing.
“I just see it really growing and growing. This is going to create more kids playing hockey.”

And now the town once known more for a flood and a movie about a down-and-out minor league hockey team has something else to hang its hat on.

“We’ll always be the first Kraft Hockeyville USA™,” Glessner said.

“And you can’t take that away from us.”






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