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Thu., Jan. 13, 2011, 4:01 p.m.

Chiefs almost giddy for outdoor game

It's only fitting that Bobby Brett, owner of the Spokane Indians baseball team and Spokane Chiefs hockey team, threw out the first pitch at Avista Stadium on a warm winter Thursday afternoon.

The big thing is that Darren Kramer, using his stick as a baseball bat, was on the other end, trying to hit Brett's snowball.

The Chiefs were waiting to take the ice for practice in preparation of Saturday's Rockstar Outdoor Hockey Classic (photo above courtesy of the Western Hockey League and Gary Peterson/Action Sports Images/Spokane Chiefs) and they were obvoiusly excited. Like baseball players, some applied eye black to help reduce the glare of the sun and a handful of them got a little carried away. Like Kramer, who gave himself a full beard. And Levko Koper, who had a van dyke, Brady Brassart with a handlebar mustache and Collin Valcourt with a fu manchu. And goalies James Reid and Mac Engle had stocking caps tied to the top of their masks.

As practice went on, some playes were shielding their eyes against the sun. In the first post-practice competition, the team that had the wind at its back won easily. Does that mean Saturday's coinflip is going to play a critical role in the outcome?

Everybody, from Brett, to team officials, WHL officials, sponors and arena works scurrying to get the last piece of plexiglass in place, was savoring the moment, along with some fans who turned out to watch.

One parent said, "What a spectacle. This is putting the Chiefs on the map."

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