Sports

Without Politicians To Look After Us, Even East Coast League Hockey Is Endangered

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The economics of feeder-league professional sports are undoubtedly more complex than casual observers would think. But there is, apparently, no limit to the role government plays in the Cinderella moments of even games Americans don't follow in great numbers.

Hanson brothers.

Los Tiempos de Nueva York mourns the loss of the East Coast Hockey League Chiefs of Johnston, Pennsylvania—the town that served as the inspiration/location for the George Roy Hill hockey film Slap Shot. It's news because everybody likes Slap Shot. But the Times discovers that it wasn't just the always precarious nature of minor league sports that doomed the Chiefs. Rather it was the death of Johnstown's patron in Washington, DC:

[Latecomer Chiefs fans] and others can tick off the hard times with ease, which mills closed when, when the major retail stores downtown packed up and left, and how the people left with them, dropping the city's population to about 21,000 now, less than half what it was as recently as 1970.

One bright spot was the defense contractor jobs and federal funds brought in by the powerful congressman John Murtha. But he died unexpectedly while in office on Feb. 8, a week before the Chiefs' move was announced.

You may be having trouble remembering Slap Shot's sunny vision of 1977-era Johnstown. I can't remember any time since I began breathing on Earth that anybody has said, "Ah, Johnstown, now that's a city on the grow." It's a tribute to capitalism that such a burg could have supported for so many years a hockey team in what is essentially a farm league of a farm league. Is Murtha, riding a Zamboni up in heaven, really looking down and thinking of all the Junior Stanley Cups full of pork he might still be bringing to Flood City?

NEXT: Racism and Power Politics at The New York Times

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  1. I have to confess that I’ve never let the children watch a hockey game.

    I have a theory that children imitate what they see on a TV screen.

    They see violence, they’ll become violent.

    They see someone stick up a bank, they’ll stick up a bank.

    Heroin. You name it.

    – You’re fucked. – What?

    You are totally fucked.

    You’re garbage for letting us all go down the drain.

    – Are you serious? – You could sell us. We’re hot.

    People go nuts for us. You could find a buyer.

    I don’t think you understand finance.

    Your son looks like a fag to me. You’d better get married again,

    cos he’ll have somebody’s cock in his mouth before you know it.

    Paul Newman R.I.P.

    1. You got the game on? It’s 4-3 Pens, over the Islanders, last game at the Igloo. Pretty chippy game so far.

      1. I do. I share season tix with a couple other guys, and I had the choice between this game and or the first game of the season. With the playoffs this really isn’t the last game at Mellon Arena, so I went with the season opener.

        Sid gets his 50th and it’s 7-3 Pens with six minutes left, so maybe not the best choice.

        1. Standing O for the arena, sweet. You should of went, but hindsight 20/20 and all that.

          I got to go to the game where Lemieux, announced the Pens were staying. I was right behind the goal, about 25 ft from where Mario, was standing. Pretty awesome.

          1. Apparently the puck went off Billy Guerin’s ass on the way to the net, so Cindy didn’t get his 50th. My early decision is thusly vindicated.

  2. “Is Murtha, riding a Zamboni up in heaven,”

    Hell more likely – if both exist. I am skeptical they do however. But I do not want to turn this into a thread about theology.

    1. Does that mean that hell has frozen over? Just what are you getting at?

          1. Thank you Mad Max, yes, if Heaven and Hell both exist Murtha is riding a Zamboni on Dante’s huge frozen lake.

            1. I don’t know where Murtha is, but the chance of using Dante’s literary conceit was too good to pass up.

              1. After Murtha resurfaces that ice, hell’s hockey fans are forced to forever watch the 1996 Florida Panthers.

                1. I like way you think! You’re hired.

                2. late 70’s Capitals . . .

  3. The federal government should have zero involvement in sports. Hauling baseball players and their doctors before Congress is such a joke. And John McCain wanted to create a national boxing commission. Yeah, that would really get the corruption out of boxing.

    1. “And John McCain wanted to create a national boxing commission.”

      John McCain represents everything that is wrong with the modern Republican Party. I hope and pray that he looses his primary election for U.S. Senate.

      1. Sure, but Steele is doing his best to drive that GOP party bus off the cliff.

        1. I don’t really understand all of the criticisms of Steel. Sure, he may not be the most effective head of the GOP they have had in recent times but he is FAR, FAR, FAR from the worst they have had in recent times.

          1. Yeah, gonna have to disagree with you there. The party chair has many jobs, but the big one is keeping order among the many factions. You do that by emphasizing the party, and minimizing the personalities.

            Steele just can’t seem to wrap his head around that. And while I’m not an expert on GOP history, I can’t think of any recent chair who had this much crap around him.

            1. “You do that by emphasizing the party, and minimizing the personalities.”

              The unique thing about this period in history is that this is precisely what the base of the Republican Party does NOT want. Are you familiar with the term RINO? If not, it is an acronym for “Republican In Name Only”. In Republican circles this refers to people who abandon principles for the sake of political expediency. People who care more about “Party Unity” more than principles are precisely the people the base of the GOP does NOT want to support at the moment. It is a turbulent period with no real central leader. The GOP is a party without a President, without a Speaker of the House and without a Majority in the Senate. Who can you say is the leader? In the long term allowing the party to find itself without artificially molding it in a top-down fashion is probably more healthy.

              1. People who care more about “Party Unity” more than principles are precisely the people the base of the GOP does NOT want to support at the moment.

                Unless someone votes against Medicare Part D, the farm bills, the highway bills, or his sense of principles extends to voting against the Federal Marriage Amendment or being in favor of immigration. In which case screw him, right?

      2. John McCain represents everything that is wrong with the modern Republican Party. I hope and pray that he looses his primary election for U.S. Senate.

        Nah, he only represents certain things that are wrong. He voted against Medicare Part D, the highway bills, the farm bills, and the Federal Marriage Amendment, among other things that I think represent far more of what is wrong with the modern Republican Party.

        J.D. Hayworth was a big spender who hates immigration, so I’m not exactly a fan of his.

        1. Yet he suspended his presidential campaign so he could get some sweet taxpayer money into the purses of car companies and their unions. Fucking twit.

  4. LOL, Politicians are useless. Good for nothing.

    Lou
    http://www.surfing-anonymity.br.tc

  5. JOHNSTOWN DELENDA EST

    Seriously, worst place on Earth. Fuck that place.

    1. Meh. The only thing keeping Johnstown from collapsing was Murtha. Now, things will right themselves. Detroit is still much, much worse. Because instead of one congressman holding it up, it’s now the whole freakin country.

      (Johnstown might be bad, but Altoona is a bigger shithole)

    2. I used to work for a company that had an office there and had to make a trip up there once. The week I spent there was one of the worst of my life. Not a goddamn thing to do and everything falling down. And what was kind of sad/interesting/annoying was that you could clearly see that things used to be really nice and the town used to be a really big deal. For instance, that Holiday Inn was probably the tits back in the 70’s. Now everything is either grungy and rusty or brand new, no doubt thanks to Congressman Abscam.

      Never been to Detroit, though.

  6. I love that movie. The casual vulgarity that pervades it, right down to Newman’s seedy fur trench coat, is priceless

  7. “Your son looks like a fag to me. You’d better get married again,

    cos he’ll have somebody’s cock in his mouth before you know it.”

    Ugh, seeing the script online like this is a little disappointing… I believe the correct line is “before you can say ‘Jack Robinson'”

    1. Mea culpa, I should have known, I’ve seen slapshot like 100 times. 1million sorries.

      1. No prob I wasn’t disappointed in you, but in the site you pulled the script from. They wouldn’t dare try anything like that on Johnny.

    2. “Dunlop, you suck cock.”

      “All I can get.”

  8. Chief’s attendence at league low for several years – finally Johnstown Tourist Bureau’s yearly subsidiary dried up and the team had to move. Nothing to do with Murtha or Federal anything, just business – but people will say unfounded things that others will start repeating without looking up the facts and the next thing you know the Chief’s moving will be somesort of national event.

  9. Murtha’s a killer!

  10. The Chiefs were too big to fail! They needed a bailout!

  11. One bad thing about “Slap Shot”: The theme song by Maxine Nightingale, “Get Right Back Where We Started From”. It’s a catchy pop song, but you can’t get it out of your head. (Now that I mentioned it none of you will be able to stop thinking about the refrain!)

    1. Catchy? That shit is down right viral. I may have to call off work tonight.

    2. That song was played at some point on every team road trip I ever went on. And it always struck me as quite the contrast to Walt’s “making it look mean”

  12. dropping the city’s population to about 21,000 now, less than half what it was as recently as 1970.

    News flash: 1970 isn’t that recent, when you’re talking about rust belt demographic changes.

  13. One bright spot was the defense contractor jobs and federal funds brought in by the powerful congressman John Murtha. But he died unexpectedly

    There’s that word again.

    1. I for one am ALWAYS surprised when old people die. Oh, what? We aren’t like that species in the retarded episode of Voyager who were born old and grew young?

      1. No kidding. One look at the sclerotic, overweight Murtha and I would say that anyone would be hard-pressed to call his death unexpected.

        1. Ted Kennedy died expectedly. That didn’t stop his worshipers from proclaiming his “untimely” death.

          1. Well, “timely” would have been 1980.

  14. The economics of feeder-league professional sports are undoubtedly more complex than casual observers would think.

    1. Get people all tribal about “their” team.

    1.5 Get tax payers to shell out for the venue.

    2. charge for entry, beer, snacks and knicknacks.

    3. Profit!

    Boy, that was complicated.

    1. It also helps if you get your neutral and unbiased local newspaper to root for your team, sponsor booster rallies, aid and abet refinancing schemes through bogus “economic revitalization” statistics…

      1. Also a local tv station to promote one of the mediocre players as a “Star” (not one of the good ones – they get shipped off to play real hockey).

        …until the inevitable arrest and scandal for having sex with 14 year olds.

        1. After which the same station is shocked and horrified.

          But now, Storm Team 5, with Meteorologist Brent Strong!

  15. You may be having trouble remembering Slap Shot’s sunny vision of 1977-era Johnstown. I can’t remember any time since I began breathing on Earth that anybody has said, “Ah, Johnstown, now that’s a city on the grow.”

    My first thought on reading this line was the industrial film at the beginning of The Full Monty showing what a wonderful place Sheffield (if memory serves) was.

  16. Who own the Chiefs?
    Owns! Owns!
    Ownseh! Ownseh!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzXzAd0hl9w

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