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Janesville hopes hockey can help city meet recovery goals

Janesville Jets bring jobs, hope to community

JANESVILLE, Wis. - During the hottest weekend of the year so far in south western Wisconsin, where would be one of the best places to hang out and cool off?

On the ice, of course.

In Janesville, hundreds of skaters spent the hot weekend trying out for a city hockey team.

Skaters came as far away as the Czech Republic.

The economic impact from the week-long event is dramatic for the Janesville area.

19-year-old Elliot Tisdale was just skater dreaming of landing a Division I hockey scholarship.

Good thing no one told the Pittsburgh native that the journey to that goal and beyond would be glamorous.

"Nine and a half-hour trip in the car by myself," said Tisdale. "It's a long drive, but I think it's worth it."


Tisdale was one of nearly 200 skaters in Janesville over the weekend who were looking to earn a spot on the Jets, Janesville's junior hockey team.

The Jets play in the North American Hockey League, and the team is made up of 18, 19, and 20-year-olds who live with host families in the community.

The job would be important to Tisdale, just as the Jets are important to Janesville.

"I've lived here my whole life, 46 years," said Greg Hanthorn, the operations manager for the Jets. "When General Motors left, we lost a lot of jobs."

Hanthorn is a realist about the state of his hometown, but that doesn't prevent a sense of optimism and pride when speaking about the Jets.

"On a small scale, we're trying to do what we can to stimulate the economy here in Janesville," said Hanthorn. "We've got people from all over the country, from all over the world, in the restaurants, in the local bars, the hotels."

Harald Rek was one of the roughly 1,300 workers whose jobs were put on ice when GM closed its plant in 2008.

"I took the retirement, stuck around here and work where I can," reports Rek.

33 years Rek worked the line. Now he concerns himself with some different lines and he works the clock to earn a little extra money.

"It gives you something to be positive about that you just didn't have when the plant closed," said Rek.

There are other ex-GM workers who work game nights.

Blue-collar workers at a blue-collar sport helping its blue-collar hosts.

Somehow, it all makes sense.

"Hockey and Janesville go hand in hand," said Hanthorn.

Elliot Tisdale couldn't agree more.

"I think this is a good area for hockey, and that's what brought me out," revealed Tisdale.

The community is hoping guys like Tisdale, Hanthorn, and Rek are right about the connection between the area and hockey.

Janesville's future could depends people like them finding jobs in the city.

For more information on the Janesville Jets, check out their web site.

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