According to the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, official announcement was made yesterday that the North American Hockey League (NAHL) Board of Governors has unanimously approved the sale of the Tier II Junior A hockey team, the Alaska Avalanche, formerly based at Palmer’s MTA Events Center to the Johnstown Sports Partnership, LLC. The team is now headed to their new home at the Cambria County War Memorial arena in Johnstown, PA (which is also where the infamous hockey movie, “Slap Shot” was filmed). Former principal owner of the team, Mark Lee, will continue to be part owner of the Avalanche holding 15 percent stake with the new group.
“I wish the Mat-Su area would have taken ahold of the team. It just didn’t work here,” Lee said. “I kept hoping if we add this, add that, maybe people would come.”
The War Memorial was once home to the professional Eastern Conference Hockey League (ECHL) team formerly known as the Johnstown Chiefs. The arena seats 4,000 and compared the Avalanche’s average crowd of 387 fans per game in the 2011-12 season and the 173 fans that attended the team’s final game on April 14, they will surely feel like they’ve made it to the “big league.”
However, attendance was one of the bigger reasons that the Johnstown Chiefs were sold and moved to Greenville, SC after 22 seasons in Johnstown.
Rick Boyd, former Johnstown Chief, is responsible for getting the ball rolling on the junior team coming to Johnstown according to the Johnstown Tribune Democrat who is also reporting that Boyd will likely serve as the team’s general manager and director of hockey operations.
“In trying to put this together, it was finding the right league and the right time,” Boyd said.
The NAHL team comes complete with 18 players that are eligible to play next season for Johnstown although it is not yet known whether or not a new coaching staff will be hired. The name of the team is expected to change.
A press conference in scheduled for May 3 at 10:30 AM in the War Memorial lobby.
The NAHL has a pretty impressive list of alumni who currently play for the NHL. Here are just a few of those names; notice that alot of them have taken part in this season’s Stanley Cup playoffs (CLICK HERE for a complete list):
- Brent Johnson – Pittsburgh Penguins (Compuware Ambassadors)
- Jack Johnson – Columbus Blue Jackets (U.S. NTDP)
- Patrick Kane – Chicago Blackhawks (U.S. NTDP)
- Ryan Kesler – Vancouver Canucks (U.S. NTDP)
- Phil Kessel – Toronto Maple Leafs (U.S. NTDP)
- Mike Knuble – Washington Capitals (Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings)
- Ryan Miller – Buffalo Sabres (Soo Indians)
- Tim Thomas – Boston Bruins (Lakeland Jets)
- R.J. Umberger – Columbus Blue Jackets (U.S. NTDP)
- James Van Riemsdyk – Philadelphia Flyers (U.S. NTDP)