Spokane Chiefs and Kootenay Ice gear up for Rockstar Outdoor Hockey Classic on Saturday at Avista Stadium in Spokane.Thursday, Jan 13, 2011
The first outdoor game in Western Hockey League history is just around the corner as the Spokane Chiefs get ready to host the Kootenay Ice for the Rockstar Outdoor Hockey Classic at Avista Stadium in Spokane, WA, on Saturday, January 15th.
Preparations are underway at Avista Stadium, the home of the Spokane Indians baseball Club, for Saturday’s contest, and players from the Chiefs and Ice are beginning to get excited to take part in what will be an historic event for the WHL and the two Clubs.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” said Chiefs’ veteran captain Tyler Johnson. “Watching (the rink) get built at the stadium, you get the jitters thinking about getting out there on Saturday.
“Our whole team is pretty excited,” he said.
Staging the first-ever outdoor WHL game is an historic moment for the Spokane Chiefs and the Spokane community. Chiefs’ general manager Tim Speltz says the buzz in the Spokane community is growing as work continues in preparation for Saturday’s game.
“It’s been a really exciting process, and it’s been everything we’ve hoped for,” said Speltz, who has put together two Memorial Cup Championship teams in his time in Spokane. “We’ve had great support and interest from the community, and we’ve had great support from the media.
“This event means a lot to the Spokane Chiefs hockey club, and it’s going to be really great for our fans and everyone in the Spokane community,” he said.
Adding to the excitement is the fact that Saturday’s contest features two of the WHL’s top teams in Spokane and Kootenay.
The Chiefs are the highest scoring team in the WHL, and currently find themselves among the top teams in the Western Conference, while the perennially-strong Ice find themselves among the Eastern Conference’s elite. Saturday’s meeting will be the second of back-to-back encounters between the teams after they meet up in Cranbrook, B.C., on Friday night.
“All the boys are pretty excited to play in the first outdoor game in the WHL,” said veteran Kootenay defenseman Brayden McNabb. “Spokane has a really good team this season, and we are looking forward to seeing how we stack up against them.
“At this point in the season, points matter a lot in the standings, and there are two points available from this game, too,” he added.
Playing the game in the open-aired Avista Stadium, both teams know they should be prepared for anything Mother Nature can throw at them.
One only has to look at the history of outdoor games in the NHL to see the role that weather plays in the whole experience. From bitter cold to heavy snow to rain, as was seen at this year’s Heritage Classic in Pittsburgh, the players all know they have to be ready to deal with conditions they would never face in an arena.
“We’ve heard a lot of different forecasts for what the weather is going to be like,” said Johnson. “I’ve heard we can expect anything from snow to thunderstorms to windy conditions to calm conditions.
“Both teams will have to face the same conditions, so there won’t be any advantage or disadvantage for either team,” he said.
NOTES: Saturday’s Rockstar Outdoor Hockey Classic is the first of two outdoor WHL games on the schedule for this season…The Calgary Hitmen will host the Regina Pats on February 21st at McMahon Stadium…Saturday’s Rockstar Outdoor Hockey Classic can be seen live throughout western Canada on SHAW and live in Spokane on SWX…FSN Northwest will air the game on tape-delay at 10:00pm PST…The Chiefs are holding an Open Skate for the public at Avista Stadium on Friday prior to Saturday’s game.