With about 1,400 season tickets sold and two months to go before the Augusta Lynx's inaugural season begins, Paul Gamsby wears his poker face.
When it comes to goals, the Lynx general manager is quite the superstitious type.
"I have never announced my season-ticket sales goal because some people think if we reach it, whatever number I put out there was too low, and if I didn't hit the goal, then hockey's a failure," Gamsby said from the Lynx's bustling offices at the Bell Auditorium. "They know what the goal is around here. And if we're a little behind, they know they've got to pump it up."
Perhaps playing his hand close to the vest has something to do with the skepticism the 49-year-old Toronto native has encountered since arriving in Augusta in January.
For the past seven months, Gamsby sure has heard from the naysayers. This is, afterall,the Deep South on the eve of another football season, not the Great White North, where folks grow up on skates.
"There are some people out there that thought we wouldn't sell 400 season tickets and two program ads, but they don't understand," the former University of Michigan hockey star said. "I didn't take it as criticism or negativeness. I took it as just a learning curve. I took it as, they hadn't learned anything about the sport, about why hockey is so contagious."
With Gamsby and his staff working virtually around the clock to reach each of those unspoken goals, interest in Lynx hockey is indeed spreading quickly. Although Gamsby hints he is somewhat disappointed with the current pace of season-ticket sales, corporate sponsorships have gone through the roof.
"We've got everything from vehicles to a bear, and everything in between," Gamsby said. "Many of our sponsorships are sold out and, very soon, most are going to be sold out. We put together a very aggressive campaign, and this staff got it done. I would say by comparison to some other teams we are substantially ahead."
Some of the more intriguing promotions include:
--An on-ice laser show.
--A tunnel leading from the locker room to the ice with Augusta players emerging from the mouth of a giant Lynx. The prop also doubles as an interactive game where fans can shoot pucks into the mouth of the Lynx and have the speed of their shot registered on a radar gun.
--The Human Puck -- an 85-foot-wide slingshot that will catapult fans down the ice with the objective of knocking over soft objects to win prizes.
--A chance for fans to win a car by shooting a puck from center ice through a small hole on a board mounted on the goal.
"What we wanted to accomplish more than anything was to provide entertainment for everyone," Gamsby said. "Of course, we would like to get a good hockey team here and we're working on that, but a Lynx game is really going to be an event for everyone."
While Gamsby reminds prospective fans that hockey is one sport that must be seen in person to appreciate, the Lynx have ensured that fans will be able to hear each game live on the radio and watch several home games on television. The team recently struck deals with WRDW-TV and Jones Intercable to carry five games with more possibly on the way with another station, while all 70 Lynx games will be carried on WCHZ-FM, 95.1.
Jerry Canaan, the voice of the Lynx, will host a Sunday morning TV show on Channel 12, while coach Dan Wiebe will host a weekly radio show Monday nights on WCHZ-FM. Also, Jones Intercable soon will begin airing a video produced by the NHL's Florida Panthers designed to teach fans the basics of hockey.
"We have a broad appeal," Gamsby said. "There's really nobody that I can't sell hockey to."