Originally created 08/16/98

Lynx coach prepares for season



Dan Wiebe returned to his home in Canada last month. It was quite a productive trip.

The Augusta Lynx coach and director of hockey operations married his longtime sweetheart, but that was just the half of it.

Along with his new bride, Kerry, the 29-year-old coach hitched up the camper and embarked on a five-day trek from Fairview, Alberta, to their new home in Columbia County.

The Wiebes made overnight stops at the Alberta-Montana border, at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, along the Colorado-Kansas border and in Nashville, Tenn., before arriving back in Augusta. But this was more than just a romantic, whirlwind honeymoon.

"The other main objective of the trip was to recruit, so there was quite a bit of time spent on the phone, you know, contacting the office, checking on players," said Wiebe, who debuted as a head coach last season with the Raleigh IceCaps, which finished 32-33-5 and missed the East Coast Hockey League playoffs. "We made a few stops along the way to meet with players, and I actually signed one."

It was a 3,000-mile cross-continent camping excursion that yielded the Lynx forward Bryan Forslund. But for the next two months, Wiebe's focus will be on preparing for a different kind of camp. The Lynx begin training camp Oct. 3 in Atlanta , whereplayers can easily fly in and out of Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport. The season opens Oct. 15 at the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center vs. Jacksonville, and there are still many loose ends to be tied.

"There is so much to do right now just lining things up for camp," Wiebe said. "You try to spend as much time as you can on player personnel, making sure you've got talent, but a lot of my time also goes to administrative things."

In addition to securing around 30 players who will come to Lynx camp, Wiebe must work out all the details of their arrival and stay.

Since the majority of the players will be from Canada, Wiebe must arrange visas for them with immigration. He must also play travel agent, booking players on flights and making hotel reservations, arranging for transportation to and from the rink.

Then there's coordinating ice time, deciding whether to pay the players a per diem for their meals or to set up a training table, and scheduling practices and scrimmages.

"I have to dedicate a lot of my time each day to coordinating everything, but I try to always remember that the most important thing for me is to put a quality team on the ice," Wiebe said. "All the other stuff is important, but the most important thing I do each day is staying in constant contact with players, making sure the ones we've got lined up are still interested and excited about us and staying in shape."

In constant contact with a vast network of coaches and general managers throughout professional hockey, Wiebe spends much of his time researching prospective players. He will scout and sign several, but the Lynx roster will also include several NHL drafted players. Although deals have not been finalized, the Lynx expect to be affiliated with the NHL's New Jersey Devils and the Vancouver Canucks.

The two top levels of minor professional hockey -- the American Hockey League and International Hockey League -- open camps in mid-September. And since the Lynx are also affiliated with the Devils' AHL team in Albany, N.Y., several players who didn't make the cut in Albany will filter down to Augusta.

Along with signing Forslund and veteran left winger Darren Colbourne -- one of the most prolific goal scorers in ECHL history -- Wiebe expects to announce the signing of at least two more players soon.

"It's a waiting game to see which players are going to come down to us, but there are several players I am recruiting actively that we expect to sign shortly and bring them directly to our camp," Wiebe said.

"I think we are in great shape because we have a strong, solid nucleus of players I expect to be returning from the Raleigh club last year, whereas last year when I started the season I had only three returning players. We've already got a good nucleus shaping up and now we've just got to fill in around them."

Lynx general manager Paul Gamsby is confident Wiebe will assemble a playoff-caliber team this season.

"We don't just want to compete, we want to be a good club right away, and we want to make the playoffs," Gamsby said. "Raleigh did not last year so there will be a few changes. I've given Dan a lot of freedom and I am confident he'll get the job done."