The story begins with the Pittsburgh Penguins and local hockey legend Don Hall, and it continues 53 years later with the Pittsburgh Penguins and the legacy left by Hall.
JOHNSTOWN, PA – PENGUINS & HALL ESTABLISH TRAVEL PROGRAM
In 1966, the National Hockey League awarded an expansion team to Pittsburgh for the 1967-68 season. The Pittsburgh Penguins franchise was founded as one of the first expansion teams that brought the NHL from the original 6 to 12 teams. In an effort to grow their fanbase in Western PA, the Pens organization, led by Jack Riley, decided to make a significant investment into youth hockey around the region.
That season, Don Hall, recently retired after an illustrious career with the Johnstown Jets, received a phone call from his friends within the Penguins organization. The Penguins were making a $5,000 donation to Don and the folks in Johnstown with a mission to grow hockey across Cambria County. The Cambria County Student Hockey League, commonly known as the Johnstown Warriors, was created as a result of this donation.
Johnstown had its first travel hockey program.
MEANWHILE, IN CANADA – TIM HORTON’S GROWS THE GAME
Around the same time in Canada, retired professional hockey player Tim Horton went into business and founded a donut and coffee shop bearing his name. The business was an instant success, and the franchise grew fast across Canada.
Decades later, after his passing, the company got involved in youth hockey to honor the legacy of their late founder. The TIMBITS HOCKEY PROGRAM was created, a play on words between Tim Horton’s name and his signature bite size mini donuts. The program was designed to initiate Canada’s kids into the sport Tim loved.
Today, over 90,000 kids participate in the program annually across Canada. Most kids that play organized hockey in Canada took their first strides in the Timbits Hockey program. If you walk into any Tim Horton’s franchise, you’ll see their Timbits Hockey heritage proudly displayed.
Perhaps the most special piece among the memorabilia is a picture of a 4 year old boy from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia playing ice hockey for the first time. His name? Sidney Crosby.
LEARN TO PLAY SPREADS ACROSS PA
When the Penguins won the NHL Draft Lottery in 2005, they selected a Timbits alumnus that would eventually reshape their entire franchise. Having the best player in the world coming to Pittsburgh provided the Penguins with a great opportunity to further grow their fan base.
Similar to Lemieux in the 90s, the Crosby effect saw a surge of kids wanting to play the game. In 2008, Crosby and the Penguins created a program designed to introduce kids to the game of hockey, similar to how it all started for him.
Sidney Crosby’s Little Pens Learn to Play Program was launched across rinks in Western PA. For a very small registration fee, kids receive head to toe hockey equipment and 10 lessons designed to teach the basics of the game in a fun and challenging environment.
The Penguins donate every single penny back to the local rinks. Best of all, each kid receives a Crosby 87 jersey that they proudly wear around the rink.
JOHNSTOWN WARRIORS GIRLS PROGRAM IS BORN
In 2017, “Jet 9” passed away. A local hockey icon, whose jersey is proudly hung in the rafter of 1ST SUMMIT ARENA @ Cambria County War Memorial, Don’s legacy remains alive and well through the Johnstown Warriors program. The Warriors are still going strong, continuing to grow the game of hockey among Cambria County’s youth some 53 years later.
Hall was an avid golfer and member of the Sunnehanna Country Club, where his friends started a foundation in his memory. To commemorate Don’s legacy, the Sunnehanna Amateur Foundation made a donation to the Johnstown Warriors youth hockey organization. The Warriors president, Chris Glessner, and Warriors executive board decided to put this donation towards something the Warriors had never seen in 53 years…
For the first time in its program’s history, the Cambria County Student Hockey League rostered a team in a girls division.
There’s something very special about this program that ties everything together. All 17 players on the Warriors Girls team, ages 9 to 12 years old, not only share a passion for hockey and a love for the Penguins, but amazingly, ALL 17 of them took their first strides in Sidney Crosby’s Little Pens Learn to Play Program.
They call them CROSBY’S GIRLS! On Thursday, October 10th, the girls rode the bus to Pittsburgh to show their appreciation to their idol, and in the process, captured the hearts of countless hockey fans around the country.
CROSBY’S GIRLS AT PPG PAINTS ARENA
The Johnstown Warriors Girls 12U Team brought along a plaque thanking Sidney Crosby for his contributions to the Little Pens Learn to Play Program that helped them start their journey into the world of hockey, along with a very special gift – a Warriors jersey signed by all members of their team.
BACK THEN : CROSBY’S GIRLS PARTICIPATE IN LITTLE PENS
THE JOHNSTOWN WARRIORS GIRLS 12U TEAM