Teddy Bear Toss taking on different look during pandemic

Teddy Bear Toss
Bakersfield Condors

You know the holiday season has arrived when you start seeing teddy bears thrown inside hockey rinks across the globe. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic there’s not a lot of hockey going on, but that hasn’t stopped teams from finding ways to collect those furry creatures to help people in need.

Since many leagues are waiting to begin play, and those that have are doing so without fans, teams found creative and safe ways for fans to donate.

The American Hockey League’s Bakersfield Condors saw 8,380 stuffed animals hit their home ice a year ago. But with the league not starting its new season until February a different idea was needed. In late November they held a drive-thru event for fans in their arena parking lot that saw 2,100 stuffed animals collected to benefit the United Way of Kern County.

Teddy Bear Toss

Keeping the “toss” in “Teddy Bear Toss”

Teddy Bear Lane was a popular destination in Calgary this past weekend. The Western Hockey League’s Hitmen have been the leaders in this event collecting nearly 300,000 stuffed animals over the last two decades. In trying to keep the “toss” in “Teddy Bear Toss,” the team set up an area in the Saddledome parking lot allowing fans to drive by and toss their donations into an inflatable outdoor rink. 

Over 40 agencies in and around Calgary will benefit from the 18,063 stuffed animals collected.

Even though the ECHL’s Maine Mariners opted not to play the 2020-21 season, they still held their own event. Like the Hitmen, the Mariners allowed fans to drive through and toss their stuffed animals into bins to benefit the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southern Maine and the South Portland Holiday Toy Drive. 

The Mariners are also giving fans the opportunity to drop off any stuffed animals at the team’s front office through Dec. 18.

Since they couldn’t have fans in their rink to toss stuffed animals, the Ontario Hockey League’s Peterborough Petes tweaked their 2020 plans. Instead of collecting teddy bears, the team announced a “SOCK-it to Covid-19” campaign where they are collecting socks and financial donations through Dec. 24. Donations will benefit the Kawartha Foodshare, YWCA Peterborough Haliburton, and YES Shelter.

Out in Vancouver, the WHL’s Giants are taking a different route in absence of a traditional “Teddy Bear Toss” night. Fans five and up are encouraged to color a drawing of Jack the Giant and a teddy bear. For every submission The Be A Giant Foundation will donate a teddy bear (up to 600) to the local Christmas Bureau. Winners will receive prizes and have their artwork featured on the Giants’ website and social media channels.

Since there is a pandemic going on, teams are taking precautions after they receive the stuffed animals. Once collected, they are put through a screening process and then placed into quarantine before being distributed to local organizations.

Finally, the Cardiff Devils wanted to keep the Teddy Bear Toss tradition alive despite the Elite Ice Hockey League season being suspended. The team encouraged fans to record themselves tossing stuffed animals at home with the videos to be posted on their various social media channels. “Air the Bear” also allowed for financial donations to benefit Ty Hafan, Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital, The Wallich and Cardiff Women’s Aid. 

A number of teams that have held “toss” nights in the past are hoping to execute an event sometime in the new year. Hopefully when the 2021 holiday seasons rolls around fans will be back in rinks and the teddy bears can fly once again.


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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