Originally created 02/24/02

Burton's Olympic moment: One goal and 'metal'



When it comes to Olympic moments, Jim Burton's goal against Russia forever will stand as the highlight of his experience playing for Austria in the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway.

The Augusta Lynx coach is as Canadian as Molson and the Maple Leafs, but Burton was granted an Olympic dream when the Austrian government granted him dual citizenship. The crafty defenseman played professionally in Austria in the early 1990s.

"That was kind of a neat experience," Burton said. "I got a chance to play against some of the best players in the world in the World Championships and the Olympics - guys like Eric Lindros and Paul Kariya and Peter Forsberg. And I ended up getting goal against Russia. They smoked us, but I had a goal, so that was great."

Burton didn't bring home a medal from Lillehammer. But he did find one useful Olympic memento waiting for him when he arrived home from Norway.

An avid golfer, Burton had taken part in a putting contest sponsored by Ping in the Olympic Village in Lillehammer during the Games. The equipment company had a corporate booth and six-hole putting course set up at the village.

Each day, a putting contest was held for Olympians. The athlete with the lowest score each day won a Ping putter. At the end of the Games, daily winners were to compete in a final round, with the winner receiving a full set of Ping clubs.

With six aces, Burton won one of the daily contests. He wasn't around, however, for the finals. Team Austria was eliminated in the preliminary round, and Burton left Lillehammer three days earlier.

But when he returned home, the Pings were waiting for him.

"My dad always jokes about it when people ask how I did in the Olympics," Burton said. "He tells everyone how I didn't 'medal,' but 'metalled,' with a 't'. He says: 'Jimmy didn't win gold, silver or bronze. But he got iron."'

FIRST CLASS: Lynx goalie Cris Classen got a little help from his cousin, Greg Classen of the NHL's Nashville Predators, to raise money for a local charity.

With help from the Augusta Lynx Booster Club, Classen organized a silent auction of a Predators replica jersey signed by the team, with proceeds going to a local shelter for abused children.

Fans can bid on the jersey through the end of today's game against Charlotte.

Classen has become actively involved with the shelter, spending several hours a week there playing pickup basketball games and helping the children with homework.

"I've always liked working with kids, and thought I could do something to help raise some money," Classen said. "I graduated with a sociology degree, and while I'm helping out there, I'm getting a feel for whether this is something I'd like to do after hockey."

GWINNETT MYSTICKS: ECHL sources confirmed to The Augusta Chronicle on Saturday that the Mobile Mysticks, who announced last week they were suspending operations next season, will begin play in Gwinnett County, Ga., in 2003-04.

The team will play in the new 11,000-seat Gwinnett Civic and Cultural Center Arena in Duluth.

FIRE AND ICE: Columbia Inferno defenseman Dennis Vial is one of the most hated opposing players among Lynx fans, but the former NHL enforcer and teammate Matt Ulwelling are heroes to an Aiken County woman.

On Feb. 9, the players planned a relaxing off-day riding horses in Salley, S.C., but ended up fighting a real-life inferno instead.

Vial, the Ottawa Senators' career PIMs leader, and Ulwelling, an ECHL all-star this season, used garden hoses and buckets to help extinguish a 4.5-acre brush fire that threatened to engulf the home their friend is having built.

GENERAL MESS: The Greensboro Generals claim Graeme Townshend resigned as coach on Thursday, but ECHL insiders tell a different story.

Sources say Townshend actually was forced out and given a front-office job as vice president of hockey operations for fear of a lawsuit.

The team already is being sued by former coach Jeff Brubaker - fired at the end of last season with one year remaining on his contract - for fraud and breach of contract.

One league source said Townshend's fate was sealed earlier in the week after the team's owners urged him to acquire Jeff Bes from the Lynx. Townshend told owner Rocco Scarfone he didn't want Bes, but Scarfone apparently was interested in him, and pushed for the trade.

Burton hoped to wrap up a trade for Bes much earlier in the week, but Townshend's imminent firing delayed the deal.

ENTER SANDMAN: Former Pee Dee Pride goalie Sandy Allan is out of the hospital and making excellent progress from injuries sustained in a fall from a hotel balcony in Fort Myers, Fla., on Super Bowl Sunday.

On his way home to Toronto to begin his rehab Feb. 16, Allan made a surprise appearance before the Pride's home game against Macon. He was taken to center ice in a wheelchair by Pride captain Peter Geronazzo before the game and received a standing ovation, with Metallica's "Enter Sandman" providing his musical accompaniment.

The 28-year-old told the club to expect him back next season. He was waived by the club Feb. 15.

HATRICK ROY: Former Lynx center Jonathan Roy scored his first pro hat trick Friday for Greenville in a 7-3 win over Pensacola, and his timing was impeccable.

The Grrrrowl gave away 1,000 floppy hats before the game, any many of them poured onto the ice after Roy scored his third goal early in the second period. In 26 games with Greenville, Roy has 10 goals and 13 assists. He was the "future considerations" the Lynx sent to Mississippi along with defenseman Jim Baxter in the Bes deal. The Sea Wolves then traded him to Greenville for defenseman Craig Minard.

Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425.