With 20 days to go until the Augusta Lynx open preseason training camp in Atlanta, the next few weeks figure to be a crucial time for coach Dan Wiebe and general manager Paul Gamsby.
Wiebe spent the past week in West Orange, N.J., at New Jersey Devils preseason rookie camp, meeting with team officials and evaluating potential players.
The Lynx are affiliated with the Devils and Vancouver Canucks of the NHL and, in turn, will carry affiliations with the Devils' and Canucks' American Hockey League affiliates in Albany and Syracuse.
"It was a very productive week," Gamsby said. "Dan looked at several solid players that could potentially be sent here. We think we're going to have some good goaltending and, in particular, some good forwards."
Devils' rookie camp ended on Friday and veterans reported for the team's first full-squad workouts on Saturday. All full-squad camps for NHL teams open this week, signaling the beginning of a complicated final phase for East Coast Hockey League GMs and coaches trying to assemble rosters.
The Lynx can sign their own players (ones not under contract with NHL clubs), as was the case with the team's three current players -- right winger Darren Colbourne, left winger Bryan Forslund and defenseman Bill Berg. There are also several players still under contract from last year's Raleigh club that Wiebe and Gamsby can either invite to Lynx camp or release.
Then there's the waiting game, as players filter down through the ranks.
Players cut by New Jersey and Vancouver in camp are sent first to each team's respective AHL team, whose camps open in later this month. Those who do not make the cut in Albany and Syracuse will then be sent to the Lynx, who open their preseason camp on Oct. 3.
"We have an idea now of players who could potentially be sent here, but the (Devils) can't tell us yet because these kids are still trying to make the NHL club," Gamsby said. "As important as it is for us to go out and sign players on our own, we need impact players, and those we hope will be coming from New Jersey and Vancouver. There are several who are really just one step away from making the big time, but who just need more seasoning down here."
Gamsby said the Lynx have already released several players from last year's Raleigh club that finished 32-33-5 and missed the playoff, but they will invite a handful to camp. He also expects the team to announce more free-agent signings in the coming weeks and indicated he and Wiebe have several trades in the works with other ECHL clubs.
"Raleigh missed the playoffs last year and we obviously want to improve our hockey team," Gamsby said. "To be frank, when you don't have a winning team on the ice, there are obviously going to players that you don't want back."
Despite rumors regarding the limited availability of tickets for the season-opener vs. Jacksonville on Oct. 15, the Lynx say there will be plenty of seats available for their inaugural game when tickets go on sale Saturday, Sept. 19.
Several weeks ago, a caller to the Austin Rhodes radio talk show on WGAC-AM claimed that a group from Savannah River Site had already purchased most of the available tickets for the opener, adding that only a few hundred seats would be available to the general public.
Not so, says Lynx public relation director Christy Moore.
Though the Lynx have sold several blocks of tickets to various groups, including around 1,000 to the group from SRS, and have sold close to 1,500 season tickets, there should be several thousand tickets available on Saturday. Seating capacity for hockey games at the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center is 6,780.
Because the Lynx will issue special-edition souvenir tickets for opening night, those tickets will be sold at the civic center box office only. Tickets for the remaining 34 home dates will be available at the civic center or through Ticketmaster.
Individual ticket prices are $13, $12, $10 and $8. To charge by phone (for games other that opening night), call Ticketmaster at 706-282-7700.
The Raleigh IceCaps old score clock used at Dorton Arena arrived at the civic center last week, and after some modifications, will be hoisted to the rafters at center ice. ... Fitting of the dasher boards at the civic center began last week and the ice floor is expected to be ready for testing around Sept. 28.