How do so many ex-Augusta Lynx players go on to shine for new teams?
Goalie Josh Blackburn couldn't stop a bowling ball in his six games for the Lynx this season. On Friday, he won his first game A.A. (After Augusta), posting a 4-1 victory for the Columbia Inferno over Pee Dee.
When it comes to the virtual all-star team of former Lynx out there, there are several schools of thought.
Lars Pettersen has his theory. The veteran center, who starred for three seasons in Augusta before moving to the Richmond Renegades last season, cited the constant state of flux in Augusta as the reason for players flourishing after leaving town.
Pettersen shared those feelings last year, long before the Lynx again turned over their entire roster, long before they hired their fourth coach and fourth general manager in five seasons earlier this month.
"You know, I loved Augusta," Pettersen said in January. "I loved the organization and the fans. But there always seemed to be lots of changes going on all the time, and that made it tough."
Other former Lynx have said players are spoiled by things like comfortable living arrangements, unlimited free golf, and pampering by an active and extremely generous booster club.
"It was like a country club," one former Lynx player said recently.
Speaking of clubs, here's one Martha Burk can't get into - The 2002-03 Former Augusta Lynx All-Star Team:
Jim Baxter, Mississippi Sea Wolves. Traded by the Lynx last season, Baxter has become one of the top defensemen in the East Coast Hockey League. He leads all ECHL blueliners and is tied for 12th overall in scoring with 22 points through 17 games.
Sam Ftorek, Greensboro Generals: The former Lynx fan favorite is tied for the ECHL lead with seven power-play goals, and is third overall on the team in scoring with 15 points. The versatile defenseman/forward has helped spark a dramatic turnaround for the once-lowly Generals.
Lars Pettersen, Richmond Renegades: His 21 points in 19 games has led the team to the top of the Northeast Division. Pettersen is Augusta's all-time leading scorer with 230 points on 75 goals and 145 assists in 191 games.
Wes Mason, Milwaukee Admirals: He struggled in Augusta last season, but Mason is back at the top of his game. Mason had four goals in his first eight games for the ECHL's Toledo Storm, then was recalled by the American Hockey League club. He's now a regular in Milwaukee with three goals in his first 11 games.
Louis Dumont, Pensacola Ice Pilots: Like Pettersen, Dumont also had outstanding seasons in Augusta. After being traded to Pensacola last summer, he had the best year of his career, winning the ECHL scoring title. This season, Dumont leads the Ice Pilots with 19 points in 15 games.
Mike Valley, Wheeling Nailers: The former Lynx goalie has a .902 save percentage and six of struggling Wheeling's seven victories this season. After leaving Augusta during the 1999-2000 season, he helped the Louisiana IceGators to the Kelly Cup finals.
DERAILED?: A little more than a year after new local owners saved the Roanoke Express from folding, the team could be skating on thin ice again after the former owners filed a lawsuit against the current owners for breach of contract.
While the lawsuit claims the new owners owe a relatively small amount of money ($55,000), there is concern the team is in serious financial peril.
Old Time Hockey purchased the team in Oct. 2001 and was to make 48 monthly payments of $8,300. According to the lawsuit, the new group has been late on six of the first 12 installments.
Co-owner Ashby Coleman told The Roanoke Times no money is owed, but admitted the franchise was in trouble because of poor attendance. "Expenses are more than revenue," he said.
Roanoke is 21st in the 27-team league in attendance, averaging 2,706 fans through eight home dates.
NET GAIN: The Peoria Rivermen lost one former first-round pick and gained another on the same day.
Former NHL center Chris Wells, drafted 24th overall in 1994 by Pittsburgh, left the Rivermen for Russia on Nov. 14. Later in the day, goalie Mathieu Chouinard, the 15th overall pick by Ottawa in 1998, was assigned to Peoria.
Stuck behind a glut of prospects in the Senators system, Chouinard was loaned to Team Canada in early November to play in the Deutschland Cup tournament in Germany before joining the Rivermen.
ONE TIMERS: The Coca-Cola Hockey League? ECHL president/CEO Brian McKenna told the Peoria Journal Star last week that the league is considering selling naming rights to a corporate sponsor when the ECHL and West Coast Hockey League merge and take on a new name next season. ... After opening 5-0-0 away from home, Southeast Division-leading South Carolina suffered its first road loss Friday at Reading. ... Lexington goalie Mike Smith, who scored a goal and recorded his first pro victory on the same night, was recalled by Utah of the American Hockey League. ... Always-entertaining Greenville coach John Marks, as quoted in The Greenville News on the focus of his players during a five-game losing skid: "I'm not going to hire a bunch of brain surgeons to figure out what makes these guys tick. I don't think it's to the point where we need a sports psychologist. We just need to start reacting a little bit more."