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Chasing the Dream

July 16, 2019

Johnstown Tomahawks scout Kevin Kenny keeps on eye on players during main camp.

A talented young man with ambitions to make it to the NHL, ready to take on any challenges that come his way. Nothing can deter his dream or make him give up on achieving his goal. Nothing! Not even paralysis.
 
Today, the dream is the same but the journey to achieve it is slightly different.
 
Kevin Kenny will never play in the NHL … and he’s ok with that … because there’s still hope that one day he’ll make it to the NHL.
 
“After the accident, I had to find another way to achieve my goal,” he said.
 
In 2012, Kevin helped the Quaker Valley hockey team win the Class A Penguins Cup and state title while serving as team captain. That season, he scored 18 goals and had 39 assists. One year later, he was invited to the Johnstown Tomahawks main tryout camp.
 
After a competitive camp, he was cut. The coaches felt he wasn’t physically ready. Kevin, on the other hand, felt they were making a mistake and he made sure to let the organization know.
 
He sent the coaches an email. He didn’t send an angry email that lashed out or expressed his frustrations. Instead, he sent something totally different and unusual: an email comparison summary that included specific stats data from tryouts to back up his plead to make the team.
 
You see, Kevin was a smart reliable two way player that meticulously analyzed every aspect of the game, including stats of everyone else on the ice.
 
His email didn’t get Kevin a spot on the team, but it did leave an impression. At the time he didn’t know it, but his passion and knowledge for hockey analytics, game stats, and talent comparison would one day come full circle.
 
“We have a lot of talented players attending camps every year so we have hard decisions to make,” said Mike Letizia, Head Coach for the NAHL's Johnstown Tomahawks. “Unfortunately building a team brings disappointment for the athletes who get cut. In Kevin’s case, an email challenging our decision with specific stats was very unusual and at the same time very impressive.”
 
The Detour
It was a fight for a loose puck along the boards in the defensive zone during an NA3HL game. Both players collided, the Cleveland player fell to the right; Kevin, who was playing for the NA3HL's Pittsburgh Vengeance at the time, fell forward, head first, and the arena fell silent. His dad, John, immediately stood up, clinging to the hand rail of Blade Runners Arena in Harmarville. It was a hit made a million times before. Kevin always stood up, but this time, the fall was awkward, and ultimately life changing.
 
“It’s been a long and challenging road but I don’t feel sorry for myself,” he said without taking his eyes off the scrimmage of the Tomahawks 2019-20 tryout camp. “I can’t change what happened. I can only move forward one day at a time and continue to chase my dream.”
 
Paralyzed from the chest down, the dream now is to someday work in the National Hockey League.
 
New Adventure
Today, five years later, he sits in Joe McGrath’s old office at the top of section 22 at the historical Cambria County War Memorial Arena in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, home of SlapShot. For Kevin, it’s the start of a new fight, a new adventure.
 
“My passion for the game hasn’t changed,” he said while taking notes on his laptop that contains hockey analytic software. “My goal now is to start at the bottom and work my way up to management for an NHL team.”
 
Chasing the dream starts with the Johnstown Tomahawks, again. Kevin was invited by the team’s management to help scout, compare talent, and provide analytics during main try outs this past weekend. He’s helping build the Johnstown team as they follow a successful season. He’s giving back to push dreams of others ahead, while working to achieve his own.
 
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