The Augusta RiverHawks will play their third-season home-opener at 7:35 p.m. at James Brown Arena against the Fayetteville FireAntz. Tickets start at $8 for children and $10 for adults. Call (706) 993-2645, stop by the office at 712 Telfair St. (in the basement of Bell Auditorium) or visit www.augustariverhawks.com.
Fans can look forward to games, lots of prizes and entertainment by the team’s mascot, Gus, said Ken Vezina, vice president of the Augusta RiverHawks.
“We’re selling the game to a lot of people who have never experienced it,” Vezina said. “The average person in Augusta has never gone to a hockey game or played hockey. We really tried to build an event surrounding the game itself.”
One of the team’s most popular intermission games is Chuck-A-Puck. Fans can buy sponge pucks for $1 each, and they can throw them toward the center of the ice between the second and third periods. The person who gets the puck closest to the center wins a prize, which has ranged from TVs to a customized golf cart.
Other extracurricular events include T-shirt tosses, said Mark Richards, the president of the Augusta RiverHawks.
“We do a lot of different stuff. We try to get creative and fun with it,” Vezina said. “Some nights, we may have the Star Wars characters out walking around. Another night, it may be breast cancer awareness night where we wear pink jerseys and do different things on the ice.”
The second game is Ladies’ Night. A bachelor auction with the team’s players will follow the game, and the highest bidders will get dinner with their favorite player. The funds will benefit SafeHomes of Augusta, Vezina said.
RiverHawks’ fans range from children to senior citizens. In support of the team, fans have brought signs, sung chants and even painted their chests. A couple of sections are incredibly vocal, Richards said.
Hockey is an easy sport for first-time visitors to grasp, Vezina said.
“I’ve got a lot of people that didn’t watch hockey before the RiverHawks team and have come to one or two games, and they get hooked,” Vezina said.
It’s also an exciting game to watch, Richards said.
“In hockey, you’re on the edge of your seat. At a moment’s notice, anything could happen. It could be a goal. It could be a big hit,” he said. “Once you get in here and you feel the energy, you see the speed, you hear the sounds of the game and the people getting into it, it’s addictive and hard not to at least build some kind of interest. Hockey is one sport that TV doesn’t do justice to. You’ve got to get in the building. You feel the cold air, listen to the people, hear the sounds of the game and see the pace of the plays. It’s captivating.”
The Augusta RiverHawks are a young team, but hockey isn’t new to Augusta. This is the 15th season for hockey in the Augusta area.
“We’ve had season ticket holders carry over from the Lynx that have been here since day one,” Richards said. “There’s a longstanding commitment to hockey here from several hundred people. Some fans have sat in the same seats for 15 years and enjoy the game on a different kind of level.”
The Augusta RiverHawks have an active booster club with more than 100 members. To join, fans should look for the booster club’s booth at the games, Richards said.
“We have a great booster club that really supports our team as far as the little things for these guys who are away from home. We’ve got kids from Sweden, guys from Canada and all over the United States. They really do a great job for the guys,” Richards said.