ECHL

Bakersfield Condors

It’s Teddy Bear Toss season and the fur has already been flying (Video)

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Yeah, the holidays are upon us, but it’s also Teddy Bear Toss season!

The Teddy Bear Toss is a promotion that has been done by many teams at various levels of hockey for years. While we wait for the kings of the event, the Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen, to host theirs on Dec. 10, a slew of tosses took place recently and boy, did the fur fly.

• Let’s start in Bakersfield, California where Brad Malone’s shorthanded goal helped the American Hockey League’s Condors to a 7-3 win over the San Antonio Rampage. Malone’s goal also signaled the 8,862 fans — the franchise’s fifth-largest attendance ever — to send their teddy bears flying.

Here’s their multi-angle view via Adam Beck of the Condors:

The final total was a team record 10,549 stuffed animals, which will help nearly 50 local organizations. The all-time count after 19 years of holding the event is 121,395.

• Next up we have the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins, who saw approximately 4,000 stuffed animals hit the ice to benefit Hug-a-Bears of Kent County.

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• A six-game point streak came to an end for the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers over the weekend, but the fans at WesBanco Arena got to toss their bears following Garret Meurs’ first period goal.

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• Like I said, many different levels of hockey partake in this great tradition. Here’s the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Estevan Bruins getting in on the act to help out the Salvation Army:

• The Children’s Miracle Network were one of the charities who benefitted from the Quad City Mallards’ event:

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• Ben Berard got the BCHL’s Powell River Kings fans out of their seats to send their bears flying:

• The event has even gone international with the Thomas Sabo Ice Tigers of Germany taking part:

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Pretty fun time, right? If you thought those were cool wait until you see what the fans in Calgary do next month when the Hitmen hold their annual Toss night. Last year they sent 23,924 stuffed animals to the ice, which was amazing but not close to the record they set in 2015 with a total count of 28,815.

Calgary Hitmen

That’s a lot of bears and a lot of soon-to-be very happy kids.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

ECHL team to celebrate ‘Mighty Ducks’ trilogy with three different jerseys (Photo)

Cyclones
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To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the beginning of the legendary Mighty Ducks movies, the ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones will pay tribute to Gordon Bombay’s squad in a very special way.

During the Cyclones’ Jan. 27 game against the Fort Wayne Komets, the team will wear three separate jerseys that were worn by the likes of Charlie Conway, Adam Banks, Julie “The Cat” Gaffney and, of course, Goldberg the goalie.

The first period will see the Cyclones don the Mighty Ducks’ jerseys worn when they beat the Hawks (Sorry, Jack Reilly!) for the state pee wee title. During the middle period they’ll wear the Team USA jerseys from the Junior Goodwill Games in D2: The Mighty Ducks, and the final 20 minutes we’ll get to relive the victory over Iceland and Gunnar Stahl from D2, as well as the final movie in the trilogy with the design that eventually launched an NHL team. (The pig on the third period jersey is Puckchop, the team’s secondary mascot who was introduced in 2015.

The three sets of jerseys, which were designed by Jeff Tasca and Athletic Knit, will be auctioned after the game to benefit the Cincinnati Cyclones Foundation.

There could also be some other Mighty Ducks-related fun that night which the team is still working on. Our thought? How about a Fulton Reed/Dean Portman Bash Brothers bobblehead? And if it were up to us, we’d turn this into a Rock N’ Jock style game and allow knuckle puck goals to be worth two.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

‘Best in the business’: Jersey designer ups game on unique looks

Jeff Tasca / Instagram
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One of the fun things about minor league hockey is their commitment to creating unique promotions to draw attention to teams or charitable ventures. One of those ways is getting creative with themed jersey nights, which usually end up benefiting charity through post-game auctions.

Many of the interesting jersey designs worn by teams from the AHL to ECHL to USHL and others have been the handiwork of Jeff Tasca and his team at Athletic Knit in Toronto.

For the last 12 years, Tasca and his crew, which has grown from him and an assistant to 14 people, have designed jerseys that have brought mainstream attention, including at least one that ended up in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Just look at some of the designs they’ve worked up.

Batman and Robin, used by the Toledo Walleye and Evansville IceMen 

Muskegon Lumberjacks’ Beach Night

Cincinnati Cyclones Superhero Night

Reading Royals ugly Christmas sweater

Utah Grizzlies Halloween skeleton

Chicago Express St. Patrick’s Day pint o’beer

Those are just a few of the several hundred Tasca and his crew have created over the years. So where do the ideas come from?

“It does kind of depend on what comes into my head sometimes,” Tasca told Pro Hockey Talk recently. “A lot of times it kind of depends on what kind of day I’m having and how many ideas pop into my head that day. Also, too, time. If it ends where it’s something that is a little bit shorter notice, I’ll do one and then just hear their feedback on that and go from there.”

The design process usually begins in August or September when teams will approach Athletic Knit with their promotional schedules for the season. Sometimes teams will have an idea for a jersey matching whatever theme they’re planning and other times they’ll let Tasca have full control over how the final product looks.

Information is important, right down to the little details. If you’re creating a Star Wars jersey, which Athletic Knit has done many times, you better get every aspect correct. Luckily for Tasca, he’s a Star Wars and comic book fan, so he’s the perfect designer to make sure every look is authentic.

Tasca studied design and illustration in high school and college. After freelancing for a few years, he heard that Athletic Knit was hiring people to help design sports jerseys. It seemed like the perfect fit.

“I love watching sports. I played a few sports and also, too, it’s bringing elements of designing into,” he said. “So I’m like hey why don’t I go check it out.”

He started in the sublimation department, knowing nothing about garment design. After a big learning curve, which included the sewers constantly being annoyed that his designs didn’t work with what they had to do, he figured out his limits from the manufacturing side.

Now Tasca and his team handle everything in the design process: from creating the logo to getting the proper art work to preparing the jersey for sublimation or screen printing. With proper notice, they can get a team’s set of jerseys done from anywhere between two and four weeks.

Athletic Knit works with between 20-25 hockey teams per season, mostly from the ECHL, but they also produce jerseys for teams in almost a dozen other sports. Hockey, though, is their big one when it comes to unique looks for theme nights.

Gregg Lewis, who handles merchandising and sales for the ECHL’s Reading Royals, worked with Tasca to create the original ugly Christmas sweater jerseys back in 2013. They’ve since collaborated on a handful more, including this week’s Halloween looks for the Royals and the Allen Americans.

“Jeff is the best in the business. He is the most creative and blends colors great,” said Lewis. “The jerseys are all works of art.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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Jets partner with ECHL’s Tulsa Oilers

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The Winnipeg Jets will have a new East Coast Hockey League affiliate for the 2015-16 season.

The club announced it has partnered with the Tulsa Oilers for next season. The Jets were affiliated with the ECHL’s Ontario Reign last season, but Ontario is now the AHL affiliate of the L.A. Kings.

“We are pleased to embark on our new partnership with the Tulsa Oilers,” said Jets’ assistant GM Craig Heisinger. “Tulsa is an organization that shares our level of commitment to success and we look forward to working together to provide our players’ opportunities to further develop themselves on and off the ice.”

The Oilers, who have not had an NHL affiliate since partnering with the Colorado Avalanche and Lake Erie Monsters in 2010-11, have a history with Winnipeg. Tulsa served as the Jets’ primary affiliate from 1979-1982.

Jason Christie, who was named the new head coach of the Oilers last Thursday, has strong ties to the Jets organization as well. Christie had two separate stints with the Manitoba Moose during his playing days appearing in 88 games. He was also an assistant coach with the Chicago Wolves from 2008-10 under current Jets’ GM Kevin Cheveldayoff.

Most recently Christie served was the head coach of the Ontario Reign – the Jets’ ECHL affiliate since 2013-14.

“We are thrilled to enter into this partnership with the Jets and the Moose,” said Oilers GM Taylor Hall. “Both teams are first-class organizations that share our commitment to winning and not only is this an exciting day for our fans, but it is also an important day for our players who want to continue their development and succeed at the next level.”

In May the Jets announced its new AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose, would play at the MTS Centre beginning next season.

Jackets’ prospect Oscar Dansk loaned to Swedish club

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After struggling in his first professional season in North America, goaltender Oscar Dansk is heading to Sweden for the 2015-16 season.

Dansk, originally a second-round pick (31st overall) by the Columbus Blue Jackets at the 2012 NHL Draft, spent the 2014-15 season between the AHL’s Springfield Falcons and ECHL’s Kalamazoo Wings.

“I got away from my game a little bit because I felt like I wasn’t playing really well, so (I) tried to find a solution,” Dansk told The Columbus Dispatch. “I maybe should have just built on my game and made it stronger. I got away from my game, which probably hurt me in the long run.”

In 21 AHL games Dansk went 7-7-5 with a 3.57 G.A.A. and a .880 save percentage. The 21-year-old was 1-8-0 while posting a 3.73 G.A.A. and a .889 save percentage in 11 games with Kalamazoo.

“He didn’t have a great season in Springfield, so there was some concern,” said Blue Jackets’ goaltending coach Ian Clark. “Sometimes he slips mentally and starts to overcompensate, but when he’s strong in his game and he’s trusting in his game, he’s a very good goaltender. We’ve got to get rid of those fluctuations where his mind flips. His core assets are real strong.”

Dansk will play next season on loan to Rogle BK, a first-division Swedish League team.

“I’m just going to work every day,” he said. “I have a schedule with fewer games over in Sweden, so I’ll have more time in practices to really nail down a few things and just take my time and not rush into things.”