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Chiefs revved for big game

Sat., May 24, 2008, midnight

KITCHENER, Ontario – In an encased display of vintage hockey sweaters and memorabilia, Dustin Tokarski finally finds what he has been searching for.

“You see that?” the Spokane Chiefs goaltender asks, pointing to a photograph in the upper left corner of the exhibit.

Pictured are the winners of the 2006 TELUS Cup – Canada’s national midget hockey championship. Tokarski was in net when the Prince Albert Mintos won that year, and for some time now he’s been on the hunt for a reminder of that event at the Hockey Hall of Fame.

“If you look at No. 4 right there, and then look down, you can see my (goalie) pad, right there,” he says while pointing to a small gap of space behind one of his former teammates. “That’s awesome. I’m in the Hockey Hall of Fame.”

Soon all of the Chiefs could be.

If they win their final game of the season Sunday in Kitchener, Ont., they will bring home the Memorial Cup – the biggest prize in North American junior hockey. It’s a trophy that the 60 teams that make up the Canadian Hockey League – an umbrella group to the Western Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League – set their sights on each season when training camps open at the end of August.

The Chiefs went 3-0 in their round robin schedule – beating the Belleville Bulls and Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League and the Quebec league champion Gatineau Olympiques – in the process of earning a berth in the final.

But before business resumed with practice and preparation on Friday, the Chiefs were able to take in some of the area’s sights. On Thursday the players were bused to Toronto – an hour from where they are staying in Kitchener – where their day began with lunch at Wayne Gretzky’s restaurant and a visit to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

“It is my second time here and I’m just reliving the moment,” 19-year-old defenseman Justin Falk said in the trophy room. “It was a dream to come here as a kid, and looking at the Norris Trophy just makes you want it that much more.”

The team also took in the Toronto Blue Jays game against the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday night.

Players weren’t exactly incognito, though. During the third inning a cameraman came by, and a minute later the Chiefs appeared on the 807-inch Jay’s Vision screen – the largest in Canada – and were announced to the estimated 22,000 fans in attendance as Memorial Cup finalists.

“It was fun,” said Chiefs forward David Rutherford, who was decked out with teammates Trevor Glass and Justin McCrae as self-proclaimed “super fans.”

“A couple of us went all out and bought some hats and foam fingers. It was real fun,” Rutherford added. “The whole day was awesome. It was one of the best days we ever had as Spokane Chiefs. We couldn’t have asked for anything more at this point of the week.”


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