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Spokane Chiefs take to fresh ice at Spokane Arena

UPDATED: Wed., Sept. 19, 2018, 6:01 p.m.

The Spokane Chiefs celebrate their 5-2 win over the Portland Winterhawks during Game 6 of a Western Hockey League first-round playoff game,  April 2 in the  Arena. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
The Spokane Chiefs celebrate their 5-2 win over the Portland Winterhawks during Game 6 of a Western Hockey League first-round playoff game, April 2 in the Arena. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
By Dan Thompson For The Spokesman-Review

The air in Spokane Arena had a literal chill to it on Wednesday. The source?

A really big sheet of new ice, painted and ready to go.

The Spokane Chiefs – who open the year as the No. 6-ranked team in the three-league Canadian Hockey League – were almost giddy to be back on it. Head coach Dan Lambert grinned just at the mention of the ice.

“It’s great for everybody to be able to practice on our own ice, so we get to know the boards even better,” Lambert said, pucks echoing in the background. “Little things like that, and just getting comfortable with your surroundings.”

Players, too, love the convenience of practicing at the Arena, rather than driving north to Eagles Ice Arena in the middle of their day.

“It’s super nice to be here,” center Eli Zummack said. “We come in for our morning workout and we don’t have to leave the arena. We eat lunch and then go to the ice and get practicing.”

For now, the ice stays, and the Chiefs practiced on it Wednesday for the first time in more than two weeks, in advance of this Saturday’s road opener at Tri-City and the home opener against Kootenay one week later, on Sept. 29.

The process began Tuesday and didn’t finish up until Wednesday morning. Jon Chambers, the operations maintenance specialist, arrived at 4:45 a.m. to oversee the final installation of the ice, boards and glass in time for practice.

It’s a multilayered and stepped process: a thin sheet of ice on the bottom, then a thicker section that is painted white – which solidifies as it freezes – along with the embedded team and sponsor logos.

This sheet is a different one – though just as good, Zummack said – than the Chiefs skated on during training camp a few weeks ago. While the team was off playing preseason games elsewhere, Chambers and his crew thawed and drained the rink because it’s just too expensive to keep the arena cold.

But in the coming months, the ice will only be changed three or four times – before and after any events with dirt. Otherwise, a layer of insulation is all that’s needed under a basketball court or concert floor.

Sometimes events displace a Chiefs practice to Eagles Ice Arena, but for the most part, the Chiefs are now back in the Arena full time.

“Now,” Lambert said, “we’re home again.”

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