By the end of his first full day of practice with the Augusta Lynx, assistant coach Ron Filion's presence already was felt.
Though the Lynx were a fairly loose bunch to begin with, their workout Tuesday morning at the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center was especially upbeat with Filion on the ice.
"He brings in a little excitement and a fresh face with new ideas," Lynx captain Dan Kopec said. "He's a real upbeat guy, and I think you saw it on the ice today how a positive attitude can rub off."
Filion was hired Saturday to serve as head coach Dan Wiebe's right-hand man for the balance of the season.
And for the 35-year-old, the immediate goal for Filion is for the season to continue beyond the 26 games left in the regular season.
While the Lynx (16-25-3) enter Thursday's game vs. New Orleans 11 points behind Jackson for the 11th and final Southern Conference playoff berth, Filion says he hopes to convince those around him that nothing is beyond the realm of possibility.
"The goal is to convince these guys that we can make the playoffs," Filion said. "When I met the guys, I told them that everywhere in the world, somebody is achieving the impossible. If these guys put it in their mind to go out and give it our best shot, then yes, we can do it. The talent is definitely there."
It was Filion's positive attitude and winning track record that convinced Lynx general manager Paul Gamsby to hire him.
"He's a motivator who's great with young players," said Gamsby, who first learned about Filion from veteran New Jersey Devils enforcer Claude Lemieux, who grew up playing midget hockey in Montreal with Filion.
"I liked him right away, and Dan (Wiebe) liked him, too, and agreed that he would be a good fit."
The fiery French-Canadian coached for five seasons in Europe with teams in France and Switzerland, leading his team to five straight playoff appearances, two trips to the league finals and one championship, in 1996-97.
Filion spent last season as a player/assistant coach with Tucson of the West Coast Hockey League, but found himself out of hockey when the team folded because of financial woes.
"I have a good hockey background as a player and coach in Europe and have had some great coaches during my career," Filion said. "Basically, what I'm going to do here is bring all those experiences plus my own character and my own way of seeing things."
And sometimes, when things aren't going great, Filion admits the only thing he sees on the ice is red.
"I'm a hot-tempered person and have a lot to say," Filion said. "I tend to say things a bit loud, but the message seems to go through."
Though the players have yet to see his mean side, the buzz around the dressing room the past few days centered around Filion's presence.
"He's a real intense motivator," Lynx center Lars Pettersen said. "I think he's going to be real good for this hockey club."
Along with his role in practices and behind the scenes, Filion also has been a welcomed addition on the bench during games.
"It's great having him back there because he keeps you relaxed and can encourage guys during games," Kopec said. "I really like how he points out things guys need to do without really pointing out their mistakes. He takes a real positive approach to everything, and when you're struggling, that can really give you a lift."
Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425.
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