http://tribune-democrat.com/sports/x625 ... -next-year
Johnstown won’t have its own ECHL team next season, but the city’s adopted squad will skate on Cambria County War Memorial Arena ice in 2011-12.
The Wheeling Nailers announced on Thursday the team again will play 10 of its home dates in Johnstown next season.
“What we’ve seen in Johnstown over the last couple months is that the attendance is coming up and the enthusiasm is coming up,” said Craig Bommer, vice president of business operations with the Nailers. “In another year, we think we can get it turned around to where we want.”
ECHL Commissioner Brian McKenna supported the hybrid schedule.
“Johnstown has played a huge part in the history of the ECHL and the tradition of our league,” McKenna said. “For Wheeling and the league to be able to continue to have an ECHL presence in Johnstown is, from a league point of view, something we’re very happy about.
“We’d always like to see a few more people in the building, but I have been encouraged by several of the crowds,” the commissioner added. “The team has played pretty well this year. I think now that fans know they’ll be back next year to play a portion of their schedule there will be a reason to support the team.”
Wheeling and Johnstown had been geographical rivals, a fact that might have made it more difficult for some diehard fans to accept the Nailers.
Silva believes the Chiefs’ departure also had an adverse affect on attendance.
“We want to get past the whole legacy of the Chiefs (leaving),” Silva said. “I hear some comments that people say the Chiefs just put them off hockey when they left. In the death throes of the Chiefs, a lot of people got burned out. We’ve got to introduce that the Nailers bring a whole new life to town.
“The front office answers the phones when you call. They’re doing giveaways in the stands. From the War Memorial’s perspective, they’ve been a pleasure to work with. That’s a relationship I’d like to continue to have.”
The two-city set-up presents challenges such as shuffling front-office and support staff, as well as players, coaches and equipment.
So far, the Nailers have adapted with a near-perfect record here.
“We’ve got a good game plan and we’ve stuck to it,” Bommer said. “Mike Silva and his staff at the arena have helped a ton. It hasn’t been as difficult as one might think.”