Sad news out of Johnstown, PA today as Jim Weber, operator of the Johnstown Chiefs franchise, announced today he is pulling out of his role as part-owner. Johnstown, which dissolved its relationship with the Lightning at the end of last season, has been in dangerous financial straits for the past few seasons as dwindling attendance coupled with an unfavorable concessions agreement with the small and aging Cambria County War Memorial Arena. Weber, who owns a 40% minority stake in the team, cited recent losses in his own personal financial fortune as the reason for his abrupt decision to pull out as operator.
A 50% stake in the team is held by former Rangers GM Neil Smith, who announced he intends to do everything in his power to keep the Chiefs in Johnstown. Still, it is looking more and more like Johnstown's 20th anniversary season may be its last.
The Lightning, who have already sold the small stake in the Chiefs they owned the past couple of years, have moved their affiliation to Mississippi of the ECHL which suspended operations for the past two seasons in the wake of Hurricane Katrina's effect on the Biloxi area.