Chris Thompson couldn't stay away any longer. He loves the game too much.
And at the ripe old age of 22, the former Augusta Lynx forward isn't quite ready for retirement, which officially will end next week when he returns to the ECHL with the Dayton Bombers.
"I had time to think, and I realized I don't want to be a person to say, `What if I had done it differently"' Thompson said by phone Wednesday evening from his home in Saskatchewan.
"I've been seeing guys I played with getting called up, and I didn't want to say in a couple of years that could've been me."
A fan favorite in Augusta for two-plus seasons, Thompson was the focal point of a controversial Nov. 27 trade engineered by former Lynx coach Scott MacPherson, who dealt the gritty winger and rookie goalie J.R. Prestifilippo to Greensboro for goalie Erasmo Saltarelli.
In the aftermath of the trade, MacPherson - fired by the Lynx Dec. 31 - made disparaging remarks about Thompson, which drew the ire of the player and Lynx fans alike.
Ironically, Ireland previously worked for MacPherson, who served as Dayton's director of player personnel in 1998-99.
Distraught after leaving the Lynx, Thompson lasted just eight games with Greensboro before calling it quits.
In mid-January, Greensboro traded Thompson's rights to Trenton for forward Lee Jinman, but the deal was nullified when Jinman refused to report to Greensboro, one of the worst teams in the league.
A week later, Greensboro traded Thompson's rights to Dayton for goalie Trevor Prior, but Thompson initially told Bombers coach Greg Ireland he wouldn't play there.
"I called (Lynx GM Paul Gamsby) to see if they were interested in getting me back, and Paul said he was," Thompson said. "He tried, but (Ireland) didn't want to give me up."
Last weekend, Ireland and the Northeast Division-leading Bombers came back with an offer Thompson couldn't refuse.
"They (Dayton) offered me twice as much as I was making with the Lynx," said Thompson, who presently is enrolled at the University of Saskatchewan. "I wanted to come back (to Augusta). The stuff that happened with (MacPherson), I put behind me. I loved it there. But this could be a great situation for me, too."
Thompson is scheduled to arrive in Dayton on Wednesday and will debut with the Bombers March 3 when they travel to face the Johnstown Chiefs. Although the Bombers owe the Lynx a player in the deal that sent the rights to former captain Dan Kopec to Dayton, Thompson said he doesn't expect to be that player.
"I don't think I'm coming back to Augusta this year, but I'm really excited about going to Dayton," Thompson said. "It's a chance to play for one of the best teams in the league and make a run at the (Kelly) cup. And there's more NHL scouts up in the Northern Conference coming to games."