Augusta Riverhawks

At a February 9, 2010 press conference at Augusta’s James Brown Arena, the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) Commissioner Jim Combs announced that hockey would be returning to Augusta, just a little more than two years after the East Coast Hockey League Augusta Lynx ceased operations in mid-season. The City of Augusta had been on the SPHL radar ever since the Lynx departed in 2008 due to its proximity to other SPHL cities, especially Columbus, Georgia and Fayetteville, North Carolina. Combs proudly stated that “Since we announced this press conference, the league office has received literally dozens of calls and emails asking about everything from season tickets to team sponsorships.” According to published reports, over 150 season tickets were sold at that first press conference when team owner Bob Kerzner and General Manager Gilles Richard were introduced to the Augusta community.

Kerzner was the former owner of the SPHL Pee Dee Cyclones that played two seasons in Florence, South Carolina before relocating to Winston-Salem, North Carolina as the Twin City Cyclones for two seasons before folding on March 31, 2009. Gilles Richard was a former defenseman for the Jacksonville Bullets that played for three seasons during the mid-1990’s.

In March, owners Bob and Diane Kerzner announced the results of an online poll to name the team. The team was named the Augusta Riverhawks, beating out four other finalists: Chill, Brigade, Snipers and Patriots. Two months later, former Augusta Lynx centerman Brad Ralph was named the Riverhawks first coach. “I feel very fortunate to get the opportunity to get back into hockey on the coaching end,” Ralph said following the press conference announcing his hiring. “It’s a great situation for me. The fact that I played here, I know a lot of people here. I have a good relationship with the fans. I was fortunate enough to meet my wife here in Augusta. Things really seem to have fallen into place here.”
In what would be a harbinger, a problem with the ice at James Brown Arena delayed the Augusta Riverhawks' first scrimmage on October 12. A hole developed about a foot and a half wide along the boards, reportedly in the same area of the rink which delayed an Augusta Lynx game almost three years prior. Repairs forced the team to move its workouts to the Augusta Ice Sports Center.

Kerzner had high attendance expectations for the opening weekend. After crowds of 2,542 and 1,622 on Friday and Saturday, Kerzner replaced Gilles Richard with his former GM in Winston-Salem, Mark Richards.

A core group of players returned for the 2011-12 season. The team hosted several special events during the season, including a special benefit on December 17, 2011 for the son of Richmond County Deputy Sheriff J.D. Paugh, who was killed in the line of duty on October 23. The players wore custom white jerseys by OT Sports in Paugh’s memory and they were auctioned off following the game. Over $10,000 was raised for a college fund for Paugh’s son Brandon.
The team improved its record to 36-13-0-7, finishing in first place. The Riverhawks faced eighth place Huntsville in the best of three first round of the SPHL playoffs, winning an overtime thriller at home on March 28. The Riverhawks battled to a 3-3 tie after regulation in Huntsville two nights later but lost in overtime. The two teams returned to Augusta the next night, but the Riverhawks were soundly defeated by the Havoc 6-2, ending their season early. Attendance improved to an average of 1,902 per game.

In June, Mark Richards announced that Brad Ralph had accepted a position as Head Coach of the ECHL Idaho Steelheads for the 2012-13 season. “It was a matter of time with Brad,” Richards said. “The guy did a tremendous job for two years and he’s had opportunities for both seasons. We’re proud parents today. We got to watch one of our own climb the ladder and hopefully elevate himself to his ultimate dreams, which are pretty high. You know what, he’s on the right path.”

In July, Mark Richards announced the hiring of Rob Miller as head coach and director of hockey operations. Miller had already coached for two seasons with the Brooklyn Aviators in the Federal Hockey League, winning the 2010-11 coach of the year award. After a 1-9-1 start, Miller was relieved of his coaching duties and Mark Richards stepped in as interim coach, a position he held until the end of the season.
In mid-February, team captain Matt Auffrey’s seven week old son Wyatt passed away from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). When the Auffrey family announced the establishment of a fund to raise funds for SIDS research, their cross-state rival Columbus Cottonmouths became the first team to help. Columbus donated the proceeds of its Friday night Chuck-A-Puck to the Wyatt Auffrey Fund. In addition, the Cottonmouths put out donation jars that fans gladly filled and team owner Wanda Amos also added a donation on behalf the team.

In late February, the ice refrigeration system at the James Brown Arena malfunctioned, causing the ice surface to melt. The Riverhawks were forced to play their final eight home games at the Augusta Ice Sports Center, a 400 seat facility. Tickets were limited to season ticket holders and sponsors on a first-come, first-served basis. The official attendance figures given for each of these last eight home games was equal to the season average of 1,830.
At the conclusion of the season, team owner Bob Kerzner, the city of Augusta, and the arena operator Global Spectrum could not reach an agreement on repairing or replacing the arena's ice floor to meet the SPHL deadline for scheduling the 2013–14 SPHL season. The cost was estimated at over $1 Million, a lot of money to spend on an aging 33-year-old facility located in a downtown area plagued by crime. On May 13, Kerzner was forced to temporarily suspend operations, with the approval of the SPHL, while he considered his options for relocating the team.

After considering offers from the cities of Greensboro, North Carolina, Tallahassee, Florida, and Macon, Georgia, Kerzner joined the SPHL and the Macon-Bibb County Board of Commissioners on June 25, 2014 to announce that the Augusta franchise would relocate to the Macon Coliseum starting in the 2015-16 season to play as the Macon Mayhem. The team signed a five-year lease with the city of Macon. The SPHL previously had a franchise in Macon during its inaugural 2004–05 season.
Click on the photos below for a description of the item.
Brad Ralph led the Riverhawks to a 35-21-0 record for second place in the SPHL. At the end of March, the SPHL named rookie coach Brad Ralph the SBK Coach of the Year. Under Ralph's leadership, the Riverhawks set a new SPHL record with 18 road wins and tied the record for longest winning streak, with 11 wins between February 18 and March 25. The Riverhawks defeated Pensacola and Columbus 2 games to 1 in the first and second rounds, advancing to the SPHL finals, where they were blanked by the Mississippi Surge. Attendance for the season averaged just 1637 fans per game, about half of what management hoped for.