It must have seemed like the most unlikeliest of sights for unsuspecting folks passing by Bell Auditorium on Saturday.
Hockey in a parking lot? In Augusta? On a dog-day summer morning?
The Augusta Lynx hosted a free hockey clinic for aspiring young hockey players, led by coach Dan Wiebe, and the event proved a huge success.
"Everyone was drenched, the kids' shirts were all practically black with sweat," Lynx public relations director Christy Moore said. "The turnout was just great and it seemed like the kids had a blast and learned a lot about the game."
About 75 kids aged 7 to 14 turned out as Wiebe touched on several areas, including skating and stick-handling, and also addressed safety during the two-hour clinic.
It also turned out to be a successful day for season-ticket sales. The Lynx also held Pick your Seat day on Saturday, enabling prospective fans to tour the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center and choose seat locations for season tickets.
Moore said the team sold about 30 season ticket packages, pushing the total close to the 1,500 mark.
In addition to ticket plans for all 35 home games this season, the Lynx last week also began offering a half-season ticket package. Prices for the 16-game package range from $155 to $192 and offers many of the same advantages of the full-season package.
COLUMBIA GETS FRANCHISE: Despite years of resistance from the University of South Carolina athletic department, Columbia will become the 30th member of the East Coast Hockey League, the league's board of governors announced at their annual preseason meetings in Washington, D.C., last week.
The ECHL has expressed interest in Columbia as a potential expansion franchise for several years, but USC officials reportedly had not been willing to install ice and bring a team to the Carolina Coliseum.
"With the combination of strong ownership, a new arena project, the presence of several geographic rivals and the support of the vibrant Columbia market, the ECHL's newest member further strengthens the league into the next century," ECHL president Rick Adams said last week.
The franchise was awarded to Sports Docs Inc., a group of doctors from Florence, S.C. The new owners will have three years to secure a lease with a new arena to be built in downtown Columbia. The team is expected to enter the league by as early as the 2000-2001 season.
Columbia will be the fourth ECHL team in South Carolina, and will make for a natural rivalry with the Lynx. Hockey has already proven a success in the Palmetto State, led by the South Carolina (Charleston) Sting Rays, one of the league's most successful teams in the 90s. The Pee Dee Pride are coming off a successful inaugural season in Florence, S.C., last season and the Greenville Grrrowl begin play this season in the new Bi-Lo Center.
Also at the preseason meetings, the league reviewed four expansion-franchise applications from ownership groups in Atlantic City, N.J., Lakeland, Fla., Reading, Pa., and West Palm Beach, Fla.
MASCOT CONTEST: The Lynx will kick off a name the mascot contest on Tuesday. Names will be accepted at two locations via a ballot box at the Augusta Mall.
The contest winner will be announced on Sept. 19, with the winner receiving four tickets for opening night Oct. 15 vs. Jacksonville, four Lynx T-shirts, an autographed puck and a tour of the Lynx locker room.
The mascot will be officially "born" on Sept. 19, "delivered" by obstetrician Dr. William LaVigne, who will arrive at the mall by helicopter and drive a custom-designed Lynx golf cart to a stage at the center of the mall, where he will introduce the mascot.
SING ON ICE: Tryouts for National Anthem singers to perform at Lynx games this season will be held at the civic center on Tuesday and Wednesday, beginning at 5:30 p.m. For more information, contact the Lynx at 724-4423.