Phil Bourque was never drafted. But after playing two seasons in the Ontario Hockey League, he was invited to attend Penguins training camp as a free agent.
So the Boston native drove down to Johnstown, Pa., where training camp was being held – and where he took his first step towards his dream of playing professional hockey when he signed a contract with the Penguins.
“I have a special, special connection with Johnstown. I had my first training camp there, but more importantly, I signed my first contract there at the War Memorial,” said Bourque, who went on to win two Stanley Cups with the Penguins during his career. “Baz Bastien was the general manager, had a little corner office, got me going in my career. So it has a special, special place in my heart.”
Johnstown, which is about an hour and a half east of Pittsburgh, is also the hometown of a few Penguins employees. Head equipment manager Dana Heinze, head athletic trainer Chris Stewart, and senior manager of client services Amanda Susko are all from there. And they, along with Bourque and the rest of the Penguins organization, want fans to vote for Johnstown in the final round of the Kraft Hockeyville contest.
The community came together to send Johnstown’s Cambria County War Memorial to the final round of the Kraft Hockeyville contest, putting the town and rink that inspired the iconic film “Slap Shot” one step closer to the title of America’s most passionate hockey community.
The contest, sponsored by Kraft, the National Hockey League and the NHL Players Association, rewards the winning community with $150,000 in rink upgrades and the opportunity to host an NHL preseason game – in addition to the title of Kraft Hockeyville, USA.
Voting ends at midnight tonight (Wednesday). Votes can be cast by clicking on Johnstown’s link at KraftHockeyville.com, calling toll free 1-855-255-5975, or by texting “Cambria” to 35350. Individuals can vote 50 times per method, per day.
The Cambria County War Memorial opened in 1950 to serve as an entertainment and sports arena, as well as a living memorial to the county’s 1,000-plus military veterans who gave their lives in service to their country. It is now home to the Johnstown Tomahawks junior hockey team of the North American Hockey League.
But more notably, the famous 1977 film “Slap Shot” was shot primarily in Johnstown and at the War Memorial. The movie’s fictitious Charlestown Chiefs team and the iconic Hanson Brothers characters were inspired directly by players from the Johnstown Jets hockey team, who played at the arena for 27 years from 1950 to 1977.
David Hanson got into character and filmed an incredible video asking for support. You've got to check it out below...