This bizarre phenomenon, known as the Teddy Bear Toss, is an annual holiday tradition for the Calgary Hitmen, who collect the stuffed animals for local charities. To date, the team has collected nearly to 300,000 stuffed animals in 21 years of tosses, according to the team’s website.
“It’s a great opportunity as players to give back,” player Jake Bean said. “It really puts everything into perspective and shows us that hockey is just a game. There are a lot bigger problems in the world, but if we can help in whatever way we can then we re more than happy to do that.
Sunday’s game against the Swift Current Broncos was the team’s first-ever sellout – the 19,289 fans in attendance donated a record 28,815 bears. The stuffed animals will be distributed to children through over 50 local charities.
Adding to the excitement: the bear tossing cannot begin until after a Hitmen player has scored a goal. This made for the ultimate goal celebration when player Jordy Stallard scored in the second period.
It took the team and arena staff 37 minutes to clear the toys from the ice – a job the players took very seriously.
The Hitmen went on to win the game 2-1, making this the team’s fourth straight Teddy Bear Toss victory.