Jul. 23—The Johnstown Tomahawks' annual main camp will have a National Hockey League feel this year with the four-day event to be held at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry.
The Tomahawks officially will begin preparing for the franchise's 11th North American Hockey League season on Saturday and continue main camp through Tuesday, when an all-star game will be held at the Pittsburgh Penguins' NHL training facility.
"It's incredibly exciting to get going again at main camp," Tomahawks coach Mike Letizia said.
Letizia said the venue change will provide the team a different experience.
"We have been fortunate the last four years to have main camp in Johnstown in a full inclusive type of environment with camp and the use of the Holiday Inn," Letizia said.
"Unfortunately, with some logistics, it just didn't work out this year to have it here. But the next best option to stay relatively in the area is the Lemieux Sports Complex.
"It is an incredible facility. Being able to see all of the Penguins' set up, the NHL feel, and the Stanley Cup banners hanging will give camp a lot of extra juice."
The Tomahawks went 34-20-6 with 74 points and second place in the East Division during their 10th anniversary season in 2021-22. Johnstown lost a 3-2 series to the Jamestown Rebels in the first round.
This season, the Tomahawks open at Danbury, Connecticut, on Sept. 9. Johnstown will participate in the NAHL Showcase in Blaine, Minnesota, from Sept. 14-17.
The home opener will be against the relocated Philadelphia Rebels (formerly Jamestown) on Oct. 2 at 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria County War Memorial.
"We are expecting to have six full teams at main camp, so we're looking at 120 players in camp to compete," Letizia said. "I'm looking forward to see what veterans have taken a step from the end of last season, as well as how our tenders and draft picks may fit.
"Additionally, we have always had many free agents make our roster from main camp that were essential parts of our organization."
The Tomahawks' main camp is free and open to the public.
Saturday's schedule will be from 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday's morning session will begin at 8 a.m., and Monday's first practice will begin at 9 a.m. Late afternoon/evening sessions also will be held on Sunday and Monday.
The main camp will conclude with an all-star game beginning at 11:20 a.m. on Tuesday.
"Like every year, we are eager to find the best possible players and people to bring to training camp in August that we hope can form the foundations of a championship team," Letizia said.
Mike Mastovich is a sports reporter and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5083. Follow him on Twitter @Masty81.