AIKEN -- Just as he was lacing his in-line skates, Zach Madden saw the silhouette of a giant towering over him.
Shielding his eyes from the sunlight, the 6-year-old gave a curious look skyward and the giant kneeling down to greet him was Darren Colbourne, the 6-foot, 190-pound right winger for the Augusta Lynx. Minus the helmet, mask and knee pads, Zach couldn't recognize No. 25 until he picked up a hockey stick and sent an orange, rubber ball soaring across the parking lot of H. Odell Weeks Center.
Zach, a first-grader at Chukker Creek Elementary, and 54 others spent Presidents Day deciphering the meaning of a three-point stance, a power play, a hat trick and a wrist shot. They slapped pucks with five local sports celebs: Lynx coach Dan Wiebe and four of his players, No. 26, Jessie Rezansoff; No. 2, Dan Kopec; No. 8, Sam Ftorek and Colbourne.
With Saturday's disappointing 3-2 shootout loss to the Mobile Mysticks behind them, the players took to the asphalt parking lot to teach their wee fans the basics of roller hockey, save for the checking, the roughing, the tripping and the foul language that often flies in the heat of battle.
Nothing heavy, just minor scrapes, bruises and abrasions.
Monday was only the second time Zach had stepped into his in-line skates, his first being Sunday when his grandpa, Al Daniel, spent the afternoon helping Zach steady himself.
"He must've fallen at least a half-dozen times, but he's doing really well today. I can't believe it," said Mr. Daniel as he peered over a chain-link fence. What he saw was a confident, sure-footed boy, who would never forget this day.
The Augusta market has responded well to the Lynx, selling out as many as five games in a row, and with that in mind, players say it's important to meet their followers. In addition to supporting local charities such as the Golden Harvest Food Bank, Toys for Tots and the Shepeard Blood Center, the Lynx tour local schools, touting the importance of academics.