Augusta Lynx players, coaches and staff finally received the news they desperately hoped to avoid Tuesday. The Lynx were folding, and they were out of a job.
The team played through a pair of weekend games with rumors of financial problems swirling, but the final verdict came at an emergency team meeting.
"I really didn't say much," Lynx coach John Marks said. "(Lynx co-owner and general manager) Dan (Troutman) spoke to the players, and told them everything."
The 19 Lynx players and the rest of the coaching staff sat quietly as they heard the explanations and apologies. Many of the players had already heard the news from agents or online reports.
"They just apologized and said, 'If there's anything we can do to help, let us know,' " Lynx captain Tim Branham said. "Obviously, we're all disappointed. A lot of people, and not just players, are out of jobs. But Robert and Jan and Dan, they're not just like any other owner. They put their whole heart and soul into the team."
Marks said he was already fielding calls from coaches in the ECHL and the Central Hockey League about signing the Lynx players, who all became unrestricted free agents as of Tuesday evening. The players could sign with another team, retire or seek a contract overseas, but they won't be left completely out in the cold immediately.
"There's a union for the players so they will get paid for time served and travel expenses to go home if they don't get picked up," Marks said. "I have a good feeling that most of these guys will get picked up in the ECHL or Central League."
The Lynx players will meet one final time at James Brown Arena this morning for exit physicals and a team meeting. As for Marks, the ECHL's winningest coach said he plans to return to coaching as soon as possible.
"My problem is I can't afford to take a year off," he said. "I'll be around for a few days to sort some things out, and I'll see what happens when the dust settles."
Troutman said he planned to try to help his staff.
"We've got some employees that I'm going to try to find homes for here in the holidays," he said.
A statement released by the ECHL outlined the status of the team and its players.
"We are very disappointed for our fans, league partners and the other member teams of the ECHL," league commissioner Brian McKenna said. "The ECHL would like to thank the Lynx fans for all of their support."
Reach Billy Byler at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.