Johnstown Listend To Proposals

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Johnstown Listend to Proposals

The Cambria County War Memorial Authority heard detailed presentations from representatives of two leagues hoping to bring professional hockey back to Johnstown in 2012-13.

Officials from the Federal Hockey League and Northern Professional HockeyLeague on Thursday addressed the seven-member authority board, which ultimately will vote on the proposals. Cambria County commissioners Tom Chernisky, Doug Lengenfelder and Mark Wissinger, and county controller Ed Cernic Jr. also attended, as did War Memorial General Manager Mike Silva of SMG and Assistant GM Tom Grenell.

Last month the War Memorial Authority heard a proposal from the North American Hockey League, a 36-year-old Junior A Tier II amateur league.

All three proposals were discussed after Thursday’s presentations.

The meeting opened with an extensive presentation by Herm Sorcher and Alan Friedman, who operate the Federal Hockey League team in Danbury, Conn., and would also own the Johnstown franchise if the FHL proposal is accepted.

Danbury is the model franchise of the Federal League, which is playing its second season and is in its third year of operations. The overall stability of the league was questioned by Authority member John James.

The Federal League group provided the authority with a thick packet that included a mission statement, business plan, corporate sponsorship outline, ticket plans, booster club information and various articles that appeared on the Internet or in publications touting the league.

Sorcher also displayed a couple of the team’s green and white uniform jerseys as well as other marketing tools such as a soda bottle promoting the team.

Friedman pointed out to Johnstown’s lengthy pro hockey history, which dates to 1941, as a reason to bring the FHL here.

The Northern Professional Hockey League was represented by Commissioner Chuck Harrison and league franchise development officer Mike Chighisola.

Chighisola was a former player in the early days of the East Coast Hockey League. He outlined the NPHL’s business plan in a 26-page report. The league, which has yet to officially field a team or play a game, will have 25 percent ownership in every franchise, he said.

Chighisola said the league hopes to have six franchises in the first year and never will expand beyond 10 teams. He said the highest ticket price in the league will be $14 and Johnstown’s tickets would not go above $12.

The NPHL’s salary cap and franchise fees are lower than the FHL and much lower than the ECHL. Chighisola also touted centralized distribution of equipment and marketing tools, logos and dasher board ads, which will put each team on equal footing.

The league would play 70 games, with 35 home dates.

The group pointed out that it had data stating that several former pro cities that switched to junior hockey saw a dramatic drop in attendance figures.

“Any city with a history of pro hockey in the building that puts a junior team in, it doesn’t work,”he said. “They don’t want to watch teenagers play hockey and have to pay for it.”

Gindlesperger and others on the authority praised the NAHL proposal made on Feb. 28. The 28-team NAHL is the largest USA Hockey sanctioned Junior A league.

“We discussed all three of the proposals,” Gindlesperger said. “You’ve got one that’s been there 36 years. Another one seems to be doing half decent and another one that to this point still is a fantasy league. There are concerns with each one of those. There are good things with each of them. We’ve got to separate the good things and bad things. We look at this as we have one shot to get this right. Based on the information we want to do what’s best for the fans in the area.”

The NAHL is clearly the leader in this process. Upon receiving BCHL approval next week, you can expect an announcement of a team in Johnstown. Should the BCHL move be declined, it is likely that the arena will give a one year lease as a test to the FHL. Should that test fail, the NAHL would likely enter the building in 2013. The NPHL, although they participated, is not seen as a player in this process. TJHN has learned that several outside sources contributed information to the board members that will not allow the NPHL an opportunity to play in Johnstown.

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