Sports Connections support staff

There must be something in the water of Johnstown that turns out top-shelf sports support professionals.

Johnstown natives Chris Peduzzi, Dana Heinze and Chris Stewart have all taken work ethics forged in Johnstown and skills learned along the way and are working at the tops of their sports.

Peduzzi has been the head athletic trainer for the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles since 2013.

Heinze is head equipment manager and Stewart is the head athletic trainer for the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins – fresh off the 2016 Stanley Cup championship, a third title for both.

Heinze and Stewart were also part of Pittsburgh's 2009 Cup champs. Heinze was on the equipment staff when Tampa Bay won in 2004, while Stewart was with Carolina's Cup winners in 2006.

"I couldn't imagine growing up anywhere but Johnstown," Heinze said. "It helped shape who I am today.

"I was very fortunate to have a strong family upbringing that had a 'you can be or do anything' belief. They set the wheels in motion. Also a great group of core friends I still keep in touch with to this very day."

Former Penguins forward Colby Armstrong noted the value of the guys who keep the players healthy and competing, their skates sharpened and their gear ready.

“They’re the unsung heroes of the team,” Armstrong said. “Dana and Chris are unbelievable. They’re professional, they work hard. When you’re in the dressing room or in a situation with an injury, those guys are probably the best in the business.”

Armstrong has left the ice to work as a TV hockey analyst. He recalled when Stewart and Heinze joined the Penguins in 2007.

“What a difference, the attention to detail these guys have,” he said. “They both came in with Stanley Cups and now they have two more on top of it here in Pittsburgh.”

Peduzzi has been on the Eagles' training staff since 1999, and has been running the training staff since 2013.

His NFL experiences have included one Super Bowl appearance, five NFC Championship games and four NFC Pro Bowl appearances.

Peduzzi played football for Coach Jerry Davitch at Greater Johnstown High School and was a linebacker at Virginia Tech, where he studied for his career in athletics.

He was an intern with the Pittsburgh Steelers and served as West Chester University’s head football athletic trainer before joining the Eagles. He also spent a season with the Scottish Claymores of NFL Europe.

“This is a humbling experience,” Peduzzi said.

Stewart and Heinze helped their hometown celebrate the 2015 Kraft Hockeyville USA victory and then joined the Penguins on Sept. 29, 2015, at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena for a nationally televised preseason game against Tampa Bay.

“I’m just this guy that is an equipment manager," Heinze said, "so blessed, came from Johnstown, Pennsylvania, standing here on the bench for my third Stanley Cup.”

Chip Minemyer is the editor of The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5091. Follow him on Twitter @MinemyerChip.

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Chip Minemyer is the editor of The Tribune-Democrat and, and CNHI regional editor for Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, West Virginia and North Carolina. He can be reached at 814-532-5091. Follow him on Twitter @MinemyerChip.

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