Galen and Grace Head

Former Johnstown Jets player Galen Head, left, and his wife, Grace, pose together at the 2006 Cambria County Sports Hall of Fame banquet. Galen Head died on March 14, 2020. Grace Head passed away Tuesday, May 19, 2020, after a brief battle with cancer.

Grace Head played the role of a hockey wife during her scenes in the movie “Slap Shot.”

In the real world, she was a hockey wife and so much more.

Head supported husband Galen Head throughout the local hockey icon’s career on the ice with the former Johnstown Jets pro hockey team and as head coach and co-founder of the Bishop McCort High School state championship program. Grace and Galen were nearly inseparable, especially in the latter part of their 53-year marriage that ended with Galen’s death on March 14.

Just over two months after losing her husband, Grace Head recently fell ill and learned she had Stage 4 cancer shortly before her death on Tuesday at age 73, according to close family friend John Bradley, the Bishop McCort Catholic hockey coach.

“It was fast. It happened quick,” Bradley said on Wednesday. “They couldn’t believe just how bad it was and how things turned so quickly.”

Jason Head, the son of Galen and Grace, announced his mother’s passing on Facebook. Sadly, he had made a similar post about his father in March.

“My mom, Grace Head, passed last night. I can't even think of the words to say how much I will miss her,” Jason Head posted. “So much of who I am is directly because of how well she raised me – she was definitely the rock of our family and held everything together. So many people loved her. She was the kind of person who always put other people over herself. I'm going to miss her so much. My father passed just over a month ago – so I hope they are together again somewhere, along with my brother, too.”

Galen Jr., Jason's brother, died in an automobile crash in 1996.

Grace Head had a long career as a nurse at the former Lee Hospital in Johnstown.

Much like her husband, she displayed a friendly, easy-going demeanor and was well liked both inside and outside what now is known as 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria County War Memorial.

In “Slap Shot,” Grace Head played the role of Pam, a player's wife and appeared in one scene knitting while sitting in the stands as a game is being played. Also in the scene are Swoosie Kurtz, who went on to a successful acting career, and Nancy N. Dowd, the then-wife of Jets player Ned Dowd, whose sister, also named Nancy Dowd, wrote “Slap Shot.”

She also had a scene with other players’ wives who commiserated in a car at the arena while waiting for the team bus to return from a road trip.

Galen Head was one of the most prolific goal-scorers in Johnstown Jets history and captained the 1974-75 team that won the North American Hockey League Lockhart Cup championship and inspired the “Slap Shot” script.

Upon his retirement, he helped start the Bishop McCort High School hockey program and led the team to three straight state championships before retiring. Grace was by his side the entire time.

“There is no doubt that when Galen started the program, to be a good coach you have to have a great wife,” Bradley said. “Being a nurse, she had a way about her. Even in the movie ‘Slap Shot,’ she still was probably the most wholesome person in there.

“Galen was the same way. They were the perfect couple. Now she’s back with Galen Jr. and Galen Sr. Certainly God got a great person (on Tuesday) night. Unfortunately for this world, we lost in the past two months two of the greatest people who loved Johnstown.”

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.

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