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Illness delays Chiefs’ games

Eleven players contract food poisoning from party

It was between the first and second periods of Friday night’s game between the Spokane Chiefs and Tri-City Americans that Levko Koper started to feel sick to his stomach.

The Chiefs’ forward made it through the rest of Spokane’s 5-2 victory over Tri-City despite vomiting between periods, but it was soon apparent that something more serious might be wrong when he was joined by teammate Jared Spurgeon immediately following the game.

“Both guys were sick, and then sometime between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. everyone else got sick,” Chiefs coach Hardy Sauter said Saturday.

So with 11 Spokane players coming down with what doctors determined was a severe case of food poisoning, and four other players already sidelined because of injuries, unrelated illness and suspensions, the Chiefs were forced to postpone their final two games of the Western Hockey League’s regular season.

“It is difficult to be 100 percent sure, but all symptoms indicate that is highly likely that this represents a case of food poisoning with our players,” Chiefs team physician Dr. P.Z. Pearce said in a release.

The players likely got sick as a result of a team activity Thursday night.

“The guys got together – everybody except for five guys – to play cards at one of the billets’ house and they ordered in Chinese food and pizza,” Sauter said. “We’re not sure which one got them sick, but that’s what we believe caused this.”

Spokane was supposed to play the U.S. Division-champion Americans Saturday night in Kennewick and close out the regular season tonight at the Arena against the Kelowna Rockets – a game that was set to decide which team would be the third seed out of the Western Conference when the playoffs begin next week.

“Obviously, the health and well-being of our players is the No. 1 factor in these situations,” Chiefs general manager Tim Speltz said.“Unfortunately, with this illness we are unable to ice a team for (Saturday) and (Sunday). We appreciate the cooperation of the Tri-City Americans and Kelowna Rockets.”

The games have been rescheduled for early this week.

Spokane will face Kelowna on Monday night at the Arena and travel to Kennewick on Tuesday night to close out the regular season against the Americans.

Kelowna is three points ahead of Spokane after defeating the Kamloops Blazers on Saturday night and has one game left on its schedule – Monday’s game against Spokane.

Tickets for Sunday’s game will be honored on Monday night as well as any Chiefs playoff games. Spokane is scheduled to open the postseason on Friday and Saturday at the Arena against an opponent to be determined.