A Bond Like No Other - Interview with Generals Player/President John Kovac
Written by: David Nicoletti
This past Friday (9/18/20), I got a message on Facebook from Johnstown Generals defenseman, John Kovac. Kovac is also the president of the Generals. He messaged me at 12:40 PM introducing himself and letting me know that if I wanted to know anything about the Generals he'd be happy to talk to me. I responded an about two hours later saying that I was very interesting in chatting.
Here is that conversation with Johnstown Generals player/president, John Kovac.
We started out having a conversation about the team’s history of how the Johnstown Generals were once named the Johnstown Chiefs when the team first started out in 2018. Going forward, of how the team's funds were improperly managed , putting the team substantially in debt.
John went on to say how the guy even went as far as kicking guys off the team when members of the roster were asking about funds.
The team would then go to John, knowing he was a Post Commander and a District Commander for the American Legion. Asking what could he do for the team since he knew about running non-profits.
He would reach out to another non-profit that he was also a President of called, Patriot Hills. After all was said and done, he was able to get the Generals going under legal 501(c)(3).
He would contact the guys telling them that this is the opportunity and if they were in to let him know. John was also able to get a grant through the USA Hockey Warrior Program.
Combined with some fundraising that they did up front, they were able to establish a bank account and got a team going with the help from the Tomahawks' 50/50 from the games and other donations from both the Tomahawks and USA Hockey.
The first game was Veteran’s Day Weekend last year at the War Memorial. John also took time to thank the Tomahawks for giving the Generals uniforms to wear for their games.
After talking to John about the team's existence and the early struggles that they had, I took some time to talk more about the team and all the accomplishments and events that took place.
Below is the transcript of the conversation that took place.
DAVID: So far, throughout the team's existence, has there been any big accomplishments that was made by the team that you all are proud of?
JOHN: We are just happy to even be able to be back on the ice. It's very hard to have to give you any accomplishments by saying we participated in Clean-Up-A-Highway, do things for the community or this or that cause honestly, everything is so restricted that it's very difficult to do anything.
With the Tomahawks assistance this year, Veterans Day is not just going to be a game, we are actually trying to hold a tournament. we have four teams including us that have reached out and said that they would come. The Pittsburgh Warriors, the Ashburn Veterans, and the Capital Beltway Warriors. I'm also trying to get four more for an eight team tournament. The tournament will be played on November 13-15, 2020.
DAVID: Besides the practices and scrimmages, has there been any games or tournaments that you guys have participated in before?
JOHN: We participate every year in the Troopers Helping Troopers Tournament, which is held out in Harrisburg, Pa. We participate in a Hero's Cup out of RMU held by the It's About the Warrior Foundation every memorial day weekend. And we are going to try and play in Disabled Fest in Pittsburgh which is the end of March - beginning of April next year. It's a USA Hockey program to the Warrior Program that you have to be ten percent disabled veteran or have a purple heart to participate in that event. Or be active and have the ability to be ten percent disabled.
DAVID: Explain more about the Troopers Helping Troopers Tournament held out in Hershey.
JOHN: With that, it's a fundraiser for, if any of the troopers get hurt or killed in action, that's pay all funds raised helps family's of fallen or injured state troopers.
DAVID: What's the process like of getting these tournaments down and ready to go?
JOHN: So for the Troopers Helping Troopers, we've played in that for the past two years, one as the Chiefs and one as the Generals. In the November - December time frame you go online and register your team for the bracket that they would fit in.
The, It's About the Warrior Foundation, runs the Hero's Cup on Memorial Day. I know the president of that organization. He just pretty much calls me and says, 'hey, are you guys in? We have corporate sponsors. It should be this much or it's going to be free. I take that information to the team. The team says, 'yeah, we can get enough guys together and go', and that's what we do. So, it's basically up to the availability of the players at the time and who can travel and who can't.
DAVID: What are your thoughts on the GoFundMe going on for the Johnstown Generals?
JOHN: Good. I appreciate that our guys got it started and it's working out as we have some donations going. Anything we can do to get money is outstanding. Laurel HIghlands Construction Supplies donated us $400. In return, we gave them a team jersey.
DAVID: What does twenty-two represent?
JOHN: We have twenty-two jerseys that say veteran on the back, as well as stickers we wear on our helmets. It symbolizes the twenty-two veterans-a-day that commit suicide. No one on the team is permitted to wear that jersey but we do make them. We'll raffle off or auction off or give out for people who give generous donations to bring the twenty-two veterans-a-day commit suicide.
DAVID: What's it like being a Johnstown General and playing for the team?
JOHN: It's different then being on any other hockey team because there's already a bond there from being in the service and being in the military. It's a bond that no one else is gonna understand unless they were put in that situation.
So, it's different then a beer league where you get in with the guys and you have to get to know him and different personalities. With a veteran, there's a bond there that can never be broken. So, it's kinda special to be on a team that already has a common bond without even stepping a foot on the ice. As far as playing in Johnstown, it helps us a lot bring other teams in because everybody wants to play in that arena where Slap Shot was filmed.
DAVID: ANY LAST WORDS YOU WOULD LIKE TO SAY TO THE JOHNSTOWN GENERALS FANS OUT THERE?
Any last words you would like to say to the Johnstown Generals' fans out there?
JOHN: We just appreciate all of the support. Obviously, we know it's not Tomahawks level or the Chiefs level of hockey that you're used to seeing. We're not gonna be out there throwing gloves down and giving the type of excitement, but we do appreciate the fact that people who wanna watch us and just appreciate the fact that we're playing the game of hockey.