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Arts, Sports & Culture

Johnstown Ice Rink Sees Improvements After Contest Win

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Much needed improvements to the Cambria County War Memorial Arena in Johnstown will soon be underway, thanks to the town’s recently acquired title of Kraft Hockeyville USA.

Johnstown knocked out Decatur, Ill., in the final round in May to win the contest’s inaugural title. The prize includes the opportunity to host an NHL preseason hockey game at the War Memorial Arena in Johnstown, as well as $150,000 in rink updates.

The contest, which began in January, called for people across the nation to nominate their local town by explaining why their city deserves the Hockeyville title. In April, the list was paired to ten contenders and eventually to two finalists. Johnstown residents rallied to vote, said Chad Mearns, director of marketing and communications for the Johnstown Tomahawks.

“The phone lines were jammed," he said. "It was difficult to get through because there was just so much traffic, but we did it. We became the first Kraft Hockeyville USA.”

The Sept. 29 preseason game will pit the Pittsburgh Penguins against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa’s general manager and hall of famer Steve Yzerman played his first professional hockey game at the War Memorial Arena, according to Mearns. Both teams are enthusiastic to play in the town, he said.

The Tomahawks will hold events in the days leading up to the game to “spread Hockeyville cheer,” he said, including visits from players to local schools and hospitals, as well as a morning skate the day of the game.

He said the community has offered tremendous support in planning these events, and some even began fundraising initiatives for the arena to supplement the $150,000 prize from Kraft. The combined funds will be used to replace the scoreboard, install glass and dasher boards previously used by the Dallas Stars and update youth locker rooms, among other small improvements. Ideally, everything will be in place in time for the puck to drop in September.

The Tomahawks are excited about the lasting effects of the Hockeyville title and the subsequent arena improvements, Mearns said.

“A lot of youth hockey teams, I think, from the area, they’re going to want to be scheduling games in Johnstown to come in and play in this historic building,” he said.

Officials have yet to decide when or how many tickets will be available, but they will be free, Mearns said.

“That’s something that the NHL feels very passionately about – both the NHL and Kraft – that the tickets should be free for the community that supported the contest,” he said.

The arena’s capacity is approximately 4,000. The game will be broadcast nationally on the NBC Sports Network.