Cambria County War Memorial
Johnstown, PA ~
January 17, 2009

If the old Montreal Forum or soon-to-be-demolished Yankee Stadium were the holiest cathedrals of professional North American sport, where the home team ruled as royalty for so many decades and where the patrons held awe and respect for their heroes and for the place where they worshipped, the Cambria County War Memorial in Johnstown, PA, is kind of like the founding Methodist camp of minor-league sporting venues, where a more fiery brand of religion was preached and the audience participation as it were came in unpredictable forms. 

Immortalized in the 1970s film Slapshot starring Paul Newman and the "Hanson brothers," the War Memorial was home to the fictional Charlestown Chiefs but in real life was home to the Johnstown Jets, inspiration for the movie team that came from last place to win a league championship and boost the sagging spirits of a blue-collar town facing the shutdown of its steel mill, while setting penalty-minute records, hooking up with the booster club, and fighting with fans in enemy rinks along the way. It was old-time hockey, 1970s-style, and the Cambria County War Memorial epitomized the kinds of mid-century arenas found in small to mid-size cities in the northeast, such as Syracuse, Binghamton, Utica, and the like.

Today the hockey is tamed of the rampant violence of years' past and the crowds may be smaller and more family-oriented but the history lingers in the air. Real life imitates art as the home team now takes the name Johnstown Chiefs, although they've forsaken Paul Newman's blue uniform for the black-and-gold look of the Pittsburgh teams. On the concourse wall, a running list encapsulates the names of performers, entertainers, athletes and professional teams (real and fictional) who played for the people of Johnstown. A cornered-off section of the concourse memorializes the Slapshot crew in photos, posters, autographs and jerseys. And there is a war memorial room, with uniforms and artifacts of the various great conflicts of the last century or two. Very little of the arena seems to have changed since it was built, although the shiny blue plastic seats look like recent installations. In general, the Cambria County War Memorial remains a veritable hockey shrine.

More Cambria County War Memorial photos - page 2


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