I'm not sure if you heard or read about the latest outdoor game, but this one was also a first outdoor game. The WHL's Spokane Chiefs played host to the Kootenay Ice on Saturday afternoon in Avista Stadium which is normally home to the Class-A Spokane Indians baseball team. The two Western Hockey League teams met in the WHL's first-ever outdoor game, and the final score between these two teams looked more like a blowout in baseball than hockey. While not attracting the same glitz and glamour as the NHL's Winter Classic, the afternoon was truly memorable for all the fans who attended, both teams, and the WHL.
While the result of the game was certainly unexpected, the weather was warm which made for a great day of hockey outside. While the mercury climbed into the 40s - something not usually seen in Spokane in Janaury - the Kootenay Ice lived up to their name as they went ice-cold in the game while Spokane, like the temperature, was red-hot.
7075 fans turned out for the game as the Spokane Chiefs looked to rebound from a 6-2 loss in Kootenay in the first half of this home-and-somewhat-home series. The Chiefs avenged more than just the loss as they dominated the Ice in every facet of the game, winning the Rockster Outdoor Classic by an 11-2 score!
Collin Valcourt opened the scoring for Spokane just 4:02 in, and the Chiefs had built a 4-1 lead after 20 minutes. Six more goals in the second period saw the Chiefs leading 10-1 after two periods, and six goals on eleven shots chased starting goaltender Nathan Lieuwen from the Ice's net. Brett Teskey didn't fare much better once he got to the blue paint. The two teams traded goals in the third period, and the result was an 11-2 victory for the Chiefs after the dust settled.
"It was perfect," Spokane general manager Tim Speltz told Nick Patterson of The Herald. "It was an unbelievable event for our organization, our players, the hockey community. It couldn’t have gone any better."
While the game itself definitely a success from this writer's point-of-view, there were some major costs associated with this game. After all, you don't normally turn a baseball infield into a hockey rink without some additional equipment. Add in the costs of additional scoreboards and the added staff and security, and the costs begin to pile up.
"Sometimes," said Chiefs owner Bobby Brett, "you just do things."
While that may be true, John Blanchette of The Spokesman-Review outlined the costs. Get your calculators out, kids.
- Rental of a portable ice-making unit = $200,000.
- Brand-new scoreboards = not listed. Conservative estimate? $100,000 each.
"It was so much work for a one-game event," Speltz told Nick Patterson of The Herald. "There’s times when you’re thinking, 'Holy cow, how much could this be?' But at the same time when it went off as well as it did, it’s something that’s a real credit to our organization and a lot of the people who had to go above and beyond to put it on. It was very rewarding.
"Financially, I can see why it hasn’t been done before, and I can see why it probably won’t be done on a regular basis," Speltz added. "But for us it was a great challenge and something we’ll never forget."
In the end, isn't that what these games are all about?
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!