Did you know hockey rinks actually used to be called barns? There is no concrete answer as to why, but there are a few theories. Some say it’s because people originally used barns as hockey rinks, while others say it’s simply because the old design of the arenas were very similar to that of a barn. Many barns have their own unique histories and great stories to tell. Up this week is Cambridge County War Memorial Arena!
Name: Cambria County War Memorial Arena
Team: Johnstown Tomahawks
Location: Johnstown, PA
Year Built: 1950
The Cambria County War Memorial Arena is the home of “Old Time Hockey.” This building is filled with many stories, many memories, and overall character. When you walk through the doors of this hockey barn, you will first find yourself walking through fairly narrow corridors made of old and aging bricks. If you continue into the stadium you will soon find an old style scoreboard hanging from the ceiling with only light up dots to tell you the score. Once the game begins you may notice the back-up goalie sitting in the aisle near the fans as the benches are too short to hold the entire team. You may even notice that the players have to step down from the bench a couple of feet just to get onto the ice.
Built in 1950 just after World War II, the site of the Cambria County War Memorial Arena actually used to be the Union Cemetery. The creation of this arena was originally put into motion when the Johnstown Lions Club was looking to build a memorial to honor both the men and women of Cambria County who have fought in the United States military. After much consideration as to what form the memorial should take, the group decided on an arena that could be used as an entertainment source for the community.
The building itself has an interesting layout that lets fans get closer to the behind-the-scenes action than most stadiums. At the end of each period, the players actually have to cross the concourse to get to their locker rooms. The staff has to put up a barricades to separate the players from the fans who are roaming around the concourse. This gives fans the chance to get closer to the players and cheer them on between periods. Fans may also have the chance to stand right next to the Zamboni as the staff often parks it on the concourse when it is not in use.
Any avid hockey movie fan would be excited to visit this hockey barn as it is famous for being the shooting location for one of the greatest hockey movies of all time, Slapshot. At the front of the building you can even find a small gallery with photos and memorabilia from the movie. Any Slapshot fan surely should have a visit to this arena on their hockey bucket list.
The Cambria County War Memorial was the home of the Johnstown Jets from 1950-1977 and in 1975 a writer by the name of Nancy Dowd decided to write a screenplay about what it is like for hockey players in the minor leagues. Dowd was the sister of one of the players and many of her characters are based on members of the Johnstown Jets team.
The Hanson Brother’s putting on the foil.
Just sitting in the seats you can see the door to Joe McGrath’s office, the press box that hangs from the ceiling and the perch on the end of the rink where the organ player sat. You can imagine the Hanson brothers putting on the foil and remember Dickie Dunn trying to “capture the spirit of the thing” writing about player coach Reggie Dunlop, Ned Braden and the Hanson Brothers.
As far as teams go, the Cambria County War Memorial Arena has been home to many teams across many leagues. Here is a chart showing the history of the teams in this hockey barn:
If you want the chance to see up and coming players at the junior A hockey level and visit a great old barn, take the chance now before it’s too late. I’ve recently read an article from Dickie Dunn that the team is going to be sold to a retirement community, and if Dickie Dunn wrote it, it must be true.