By Rob Mueller
Players, coaches and general managers have come and gone, but one constant has remained for the Augusta Lynx.
Trainer Brian Patafie has been on the bench for all 294 games since the team’s inaugural season. In fact, he hasn’t missed a game in his 24-year hockey career, making Friday’s contest against the Charlotte Checkers consecutive game No. 1,800.
“I’ve seen a lot of bad hockey,” Patafie joked. “I’ve also worked with a lot of great players and coaches.”
For Patafie, it all began in Utica, N.Y., in the rough-and-tumble Eastern Hockey League.
Along the way, Patafie, 47, has made stops in his hometown of Ottawa, Canada, with the major junior Ottawa 67s; in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick; Salt Lake City and Newfoundland before reaching the pinnacle, spending 2 1/2 seasons in the National Hockey League with the Calgary Flames.
The list of notable coaches Patafie has worked with includes the fiery John Brophy, the Wheeling Nailers coach who has more than 1,000 career wins and Phoenix Coyotes coach Bobby Francis, the NHL’s coach of the year last season. With the Lynx, Patafie has been more than just a trainer. He handles equipment, team housing, travel and immigration. In the past, he’s turned down offers to return to the NHL and the American Hockey League, citing his commitment to the organization and fondness for Augusta.
“Brian fits in with the guys and is always there to keep us loose and give us something to laugh about during tough times,” Lynx forward Josh St. Louis said. “He’s also good at his job. He’s professional about everything he does.”