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RiverHawks GM fired after lackluster start

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Augusta RiverHawks owner Bob Kerzner confirmed Thursday that the front office of his minor league hockey team has undergone a major overhaul after a disappointing turnout in the team's season-opening weekend.

Gilles Richard: GM was fired after three losses and poor turnout for the first two games contested at James Brown Arena.   Special
Special
Gilles Richard: GM was fired after three losses and poor turnout for the first two games contested at James Brown Arena.

Kerzner said he has released Gilles Richard as general manager and has hired Mark Richards as the new front office leader. Richards will take over Nov. 1, and new sales positions and other staff additions will also be made to the front office.

"Like a coach makes changes with his players when he doesn't see the results he's looking for, I've made some changes this week," Kerzner said. "I like Gilles, but at the end of the game and business, results count."

The first-year RiverHawks, who play at home tonight, have drawn the fewest number of fans per game within the eight-team Southern Professional Hockey League since it opened the 2010-11 season last week. James Brown Arena saw only 2,542 fans at the home opener last Friday and 1,622 on Saturday.

Richard's firing came just three games into the 56-game season and less than 10 months after he was introduced as the franchise's first general manager at a news conference in February.

Richard said he was "extremely disappointed" by the firing.

"This is a city that likes to build relationships before it jumps in with two feet on anything," Richard said. "It feels like I didn't have a full opportunity to achieve the goals set for the staff and the team.

"There's a lot of good people in Augusta that care about hockey, and I'll miss those people."

The 41-year-old Richards resigned last week from his position in the newly created Federal Hockey League, where he was the general manager of the New York Aviators. The league began its inaugural season Thursday night.

Richards served as head coach and general manager for the Kerzner-owned Pee Dee Cyclones and Twin City Cyclones from 2005 to 2009.

Kerzner, who said before the season he'd like to lead the league in attendance, said Richards will be in town today to begin his efforts to increase interest in the team.

"We met for four hours yesterday with the new GM," Kerzner said. "He's got the go-ahead to hire more office people and more sales people."

Head coach Brad Ralph shook up his roster earlier this week, releasing three players and adding two others in the wake of the team's 0-3 start. The RiverHawks will play host to Fayetteville (1-2) tonight and Columbus (0-2) on Saturday night at James Brown Arena.

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pommom38
1496
Points
pommom38 10/28/10 - 01:33 pm
0
0
Wow. Where I do understand

Wow. Where I do understand you have to do what is right within a business, this came fast! I hope the firing was not based solely on opening weekends attendance. There was so much going on at that time, how on earth was it even realistic to expect more fans??

hockeymann
226
Points
hockeymann 10/28/10 - 02:30 pm
0
0
Well, this was shocking, to

Well, this was shocking, to say the least. I too feel things might improve,
as we pretty much met the "perfect storm" last week, with the fair, GA.
and South Carolina both on TV Sat. night, and high school ball Friday. But, we've all seen that stuff every year before, and never seen attendance reach that much of a low. I liked Mr. Richard, but, it is business, and the totals don't lie. Its got to improve fast, or we wont be
looking at hockey here. I'm inclined to blame it on two things, other than
the ones mentioned, that everyone likes to cite:
l) I think press releases, advertising, and other, all needed to emphasize
the good quality of SPHL hockey, and quit talking it as an "A" league vs.
the "AA" ECHL. There's not that much difference in what you see on
the ice. Instead, push the quality. Push the fact that favorite players are
likely to be here the entire season, which isn't true of the ECHL.
2)Maybe the "Troutman Demise" was worse than we thought. We have
to have more season ticketbuyers. 750 wasn't enough. There are
many we all know, who bought season tickets in the past year or two
of the Lynx, who haven't bought yet. Heavy pressure needs to be put
on these folks to buy. Maybe another deal for a half-season package
could be sold, if good enough, to these people. If they don't have a list
of these people, then call in a committee of us to help them.
A third item, not related to the above, would be that more corporate sponsors need to be sold a package. There are too many empty spaces
in the arena around the boards, that ought to be promoting a business. I
counted 5-6.

I suggested another item before...May be nothing was possible on this, but if they could've brought in an old favorite from the past, such as a
retired Kenny Tasker, or Alan Sirois, or the like, to ignite the old crowd
some, it would have gone a long way...Might have cost too much, or it
may be that such players don't want another year. If it could be done, it
would help put folks in seats.

I sincerely hope that whatever steps Mr. Kerzner is taking, will work. It is
very obvious that he isn't one to sit on his hands while things burn. This
has to shake the entire organization up. This should ignite the front office, but I'm sure others in charge will realize that results have to come, or there could be more change.

Chillen
17
Points
Chillen 10/28/10 - 02:35 pm
0
0
I hate it that they are going

I hate it that they are going through so much so soon. We went to a game the other night. Though I'm not a hockey fan, it was fun & entertaining. Only $5 per person! We plan to go to a few more this season.

bdouglas
4522
Points
bdouglas 10/28/10 - 02:40 pm
0
0
Heavy pressure put on past

Heavy pressure put on past season ticket holders? I think a lot are still rather perturbed about buying them the last Lynx season and not getting any sort of refund when the team folded. Heavy *incentives* are needed maybe, but not heavy pressure. You don't want to tick them off even more than the Lynx did.

hockeymann
226
Points
hockeymann 10/28/10 - 02:42 pm
0
0
The $5 deal was for the

The $5 deal was for the exhibition game. It's a bit more, like $8 to $12
for regular season games, but you get a better product in regular season
games.

Season tickets couldn't be priced better for military or senior citizens, at
half-price on any seats in the house not already taken. No one in these
categories should be missing this.

But, maybe a good half-season package could be worked up, that might
bring reluctant past season-ticket buyers back to us again.

hockeymann
226
Points
hockeymann 10/28/10 - 02:48 pm
0
0
If you'd re-read what I

If you'd re-read what I said...No one wants anyone "ticked off"...I too
lost my money on my two tickets..I re-bought this time because we
have to if we keep hockey here...Heavy pressure doesn't have to mean
that you get people mad..It just means being persistent...I know some who didn't buy this year, who have had no one contact them at all. Thats
what I'm referring to...If that bothers you, I'm sorry. It's what is needed.
Perhaps the new GM will realize this..You can't sell season tickets or cor-
porate advertising, unless a persistent effort is made.

airbud7
1
Points
airbud7 10/28/10 - 02:53 pm
0
0
2,542 fans to the home

2,542 fans to the home opener
And 1,622 on Saturday
4164 fans@$5.00ea= $20820.00

TidBit☺

ruudvonbaron
0
Points
ruudvonbaron 10/28/10 - 02:57 pm
0
0
It is football season. Give

It is football season. Give it a few more weeks.

draksig
167
Points
draksig 10/28/10 - 03:07 pm
0
0
The new owner showing little

The new owner showing little patience may scare away fans. I plan on going to some games, once football regular season is over.

pommom38
1496
Points
pommom38 10/28/10 - 03:11 pm
0
0
It may also help the

It may also help the attendance if specials were offered to everyone. For the casual fan, or the person who has never seen hockey, going at a discounted rate would allow them to see what it's all about! AC has these daily deals, perhaps the riverhawks need to post one up there..

corgimom
28297
Points
corgimom 10/28/10 - 03:29 pm
0
0
You can replace the GM all

You can replace the GM all you want, but you can't make people come and spend money that they don't have.

Hockey games are a luxury item.

"Heavy pressure needs to be put on these folks to buy."

How do you demand that people buy your item?

ron_rlw
1
Points
ron_rlw 10/28/10 - 03:36 pm
0
0
Corgimon - you asked "How do

Corgimon - you asked "How do you demand that people buy your item?"

You can't ... but the Augustan's can be educated by the RiverHawks to become fans. I would start working in the schools to develop an interest with the kids. I'm sure the PE teachers would welcome some of the players (once they've passed the background check) in to teach the kids the rules and strategies of the game. Also a short lesson before each game would help the adults understand.

hockeymann
226
Points
hockeymann 10/28/10 - 03:46 pm
0
0
You might try asking them...A

You might try asking them...A number that I know, who previously bought season tickets, have not been asked. I understand that the
Troutman regime kept all records, so they may not know who previously
bought. I asked Lisa Ferguson, who was in charge of tickets, when the Lynx folded, and she said she didn't have a list(by email from Iowa).
Asking them to buy is not demanding anything..Obviously, you, and some above, must not be in the business of earning a living selling any-
thing...You have to ask for an order if you expect to sell anything.
I assume Airbud wanted a change to $5 ticket..Perhaps a good one game thing to try, but to change things much more on that is not a
good way to treat folks who have already bought season tickets at a
price somewhat above that, right?
We should all be on the same page here, toward keeping hockey, and not in the business of picking people, in a play on certain words some don't like.
I don't think anyone is going to buy anything, if they don't like it
or if they don't like the person selling it.
Tickets, or ads, will never sell, if they aren't asked for the sale.
As for the walk-up purchases, they'll come if convinced the product
is good on the ice. I suggested some ways. There could be others.

sjgraci
2
Points
sjgraci 10/28/10 - 03:38 pm
0
0
Wow! After one weekend!? It

Wow! After one weekend!? It appears the owner Bob Kerzner has no patience or much sense regarding the Augusta hockey market. Ever hear the phrase "build it and they will come" Kerzner? You got a lot of building to do in this town after hockey was torn down by 3 years of Troutman and 2 years of Lawrence/Morris. Richard was on his way to building back that trust that had been squandered.

You can't get quality veteran players to come to your expansion team because the only thing they have to go off of is a failed Augusta Lynx. What makes you think the fans and businesses are going to automatically show up after the way they were treated? Richard has made more hockey noise in this town since the first years of the Lynx. There were also more butts n the seats at the home opener than there were under the last two Lynx home openers. (You can look at the stats all you want but the truth is with those who were actually at those games.) The preseason scrimmage was also better attended than the last several Lynx' preseason games that were held at the Ice Sports Center for a couple hundred fans.

The days of hockey sell-outs at the JBA are over. It is going to take one heck of a product to come close and from what I've seen, the money to build that type of team and entertainment experience is not there. Want a sell-out Kerzner? Spend some of your money instead of your inflated ego.

MistaChuckD
0
Points
MistaChuckD 10/28/10 - 03:50 pm
0
0
I hope the change is a good

I hope the change is a good one for the team. I know it was just the opening weekend, but there was just not an air of excitement either night other than the last five minutes of both games.

I don't know how many tickets are given away for each game but I suggest giving some away to the soldiers on post. When the Lynx were here, it was always a loud party on the nights the soldiers were there.

Also, whoever is in charge of the music needs to turn it down when someone is speaking. It is hard to hear and follow what is going on with the music blasting as the Rickey Bobby impersonator is trying to do his thing.

Good Luck To The Riverhawks!!!

Oh one more thing...Having 3 stars of the game after a loss doesn't seem quite right.

hockeymann
226
Points
hockeymann 10/28/10 - 03:51 pm
0
0
None of us knows what all

None of us knows what all went into Mr. Kerzner's decision to make the
change. Mr. Kerzner has a past record of ownership, covering at least 7+
years or more, in Florence and Winston-Salem. He's had numerous nights of less than full house crowds. It is his money backing the effort.
I think we owe him the benefit of a doubt on this. He may have had other good reasons. Negative comments about our owner are not going
to do a thing to help things here.

thrashman85
0
Points
thrashman85 10/28/10 - 04:02 pm
0
0
I think Mr Kerzner felt that

I think Mr Kerzner felt that not enough was done to promote the opening weekend. I would almost agree. Yes, they had the commercials, but I personally didnt see it until Wednesday before the opening weekend. They shouldve had that going for weeks prior IMO.

airbud7
1
Points
airbud7 10/28/10 - 04:03 pm
0
0
I think Augusta would do well

I think Augusta would do well with a Minor League Basketball Team/Is there such a thing?

Precocious
0
Points
Precocious 10/28/10 - 04:19 pm
0
0
I have to agree with

I have to agree with MistaChuckD regarding the attendance of the military from Ft. Gordon. They filled the seats at the Lynx games and added to the crowd participation by their enthusiasm. They were loud and proud! Efforts need to be made to bring them to the games. We need them to fill seats and raise the roof!

Chillen
17
Points
Chillen 10/28/10 - 04:21 pm
0
0
airbud. Ha-Ha, funny you'd

airbud. Ha-Ha, funny you'd mention that. We are supposed to get an all-white baseketball league here.

http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/2010/01/19/nba_563760.shtml

dpm626
0
Points
dpm626 10/28/10 - 04:29 pm
0
0
airbud - the minor league

airbud - the minor league basketb all team failed. I too thought it would have drawn a lot more.

MistaChuckD
0
Points
MistaChuckD 10/28/10 - 05:42 pm
0
0
I believe the minor league

I believe the minor league basketball team suffered from the same thing the Lynx did...bad money management.

Running a professional team takes a ridiculous amount of money. The team owner needs to be wealthy, not just rich. The owner needs to have lots of patience. He also needs to have someone running things who knows the area as well as the sport and who can spend the alotted money wisely.

As far as spending wisely goes and doing things that will actually bring people to games goes, there were some things the Lynx did that I didn't understand.

One of those things were the cheerleaders they employed toward the end of their run. Did they really think the cheerleader / dancing girls would bring a single person to the games?

Young, excited soldiers are an excellent idea. Cheerleader/dancing girls, not so much.

Another idea I think would go a long was toward building a fan base is having the players go into schools near the JBA instead of always going to schools in Columbia County which is what was most often the case with the Lynx.

An example of the rich vs wealthy thing is - Tony Gonzalez is rich. The Falcons owner is wealthy.

As always, I hope the team does great both on the ice and at the gate.

Richard_101
0
Points
Richard_101 10/28/10 - 05:58 pm
0
0
I remember there was a plan

I remember there was a plan to have a person dressed as a goalie make appearances around the city...I don't think that happened and the sales people need to look to new people to the CSRA...There are lots of people moving here all the time and some are bound to be hockey fans...I know I've encountered people here who hadn't heard that we had a hockey team and they have lived here for years...Sales people have to think outside the box instead of waiting for the phone to ring.

Oh Dan Sullivan was released last week and I haven't seen him sign anywhere as of yet to my knowledge.

EHC58
2
Points
EHC58 10/28/10 - 08:51 pm
0
0
I don't know how Kerzner

I don't know how Kerzner could fire Richard at this early stage and without looking in the mirror at his own decisions. I know for a fact Gills was not allowed to make any decisions without running them by Kerzner first. So who is really to blame. Kerzner just needed a whipping boy for his own screwups.

bordercollie75
2
Points
bordercollie75 10/28/10 - 09:33 pm
0
0
Regarding Ft. Gordon -

Regarding Ft. Gordon - apparently Troutman burned bridges with the leaders at Ft. Gordon during the last Lynx year; the RiverHawks reached out to Ft. Gordon but they wouldn't give them the time of day. How heavy has the team been promoted in the Aiken area? Lots of northerners retiring there - how about anyone who can prove they are a yankee gets in for half price? How about little league demos during the first few minutes of each intermission? How about corporate challenge "mini-games" the first few minutes of each intermission (with sneakers) - for example, 5 volunteers from MCG vs. 5 volunteers from University; or a team from Augusta Tech vs. ASU? Lots of rivalries could be thunk up....fun for the fans, pull in some casual fans, free promotion for who the teams represent. Maybe you could get Stokes-Hodges vs. Milton Ruben - no, wait, probably not a good idea.... any other ideas to get butts in the seats?

blues550
355
Points
blues550 10/28/10 - 10:44 pm
0
0
If Kerzner goes 3 for 3 and
Unpublished

If Kerzner goes 3 for 3 and this team folds, especially before the season is done, he will forever ruin the opportunity for hockey in Augusta. You can bet Billy, Frank and Danny Boy are hopingfor a crash and burn. Right now the 7 P's are looking to be right once a again. Gilles is an unfortunate scapegoat.

dahofsd17
0
Points
dahofsd17 10/29/10 - 01:06 am
0
0
bordercollie, your info about

bordercollie, your info about FT. Gordon isn't accurate. There were free tickets given and distributed by units/agencies at the Fort for opening weekend and they were snatched up quickly. Now do they or will they have the kind of relationship that the Fort and lynx had....I don't know. I do know that they need to do more marketing to involve the Fort and its troops. Too many Soldiers sitting around and not sure what to do, and not enough in the arena opening weekend. One way would be to offer a shuttle from base to the game and back, but I'm not sure how that would pan out logistically. Anyway, just wanted to clean up the misnomer regarding the Riverhawks and the Fort.

hockeymann
226
Points
hockeymann 10/29/10 - 09:05 am
0
0
You're wrong about Frank L.

You're wrong about Frank L. hoping for a crash & burn. He wanted it to
succeed here. I think we all need to take a deep breath, and get on with
cheering the RHawks this weekend, hopefully to a win or two. The negative stuff is only going to make things worse. Lets give the new GM
some time to work on it. Hopefully, he can get the ship going correctly.

hockeymann
226
Points
hockeymann 10/29/10 - 09:10 am
0
0
I didn't realize that Dan

I didn't realize that Dan Sullivan had been released...WoW! If anyone could put people in the seats here, it would be Dan Sullivan on our ice
again...Any chance of it???...

robelenj
0
Points
robelenj 10/29/10 - 09:22 am
0
0
Augusta has another hockey

Augusta has another hockey team???? Wow, it seems a little more advertising would help with the turnout? High School football, college football, fairs in town and you fire the GM based on poor turnout after 3 games... that hardly seems fair.

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