Stuffed animals are flying as Teddy Bear Toss returns across hockey

teddy bear toss
ALEX COOPER / OBSERVER-DISPATCH / USA TODAY NETWORK

It’s December. The air is getting colder. The hockey is getting more intense. It’s the holiday season. And that can only mean one thing: Teddy Bear Toss time!

During the 2020-21 Teddy Bear Toss season many teams still found ways to make donations to local organizations despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Some had drive-thru events, others encouraged fans to toss them at home, and there was even a coloring contest.

Now that fans are back inside arenas, the annual tradition has returned for the 2021-22 season. Let’s take a look around the various levels of hockey and see how much fur has been flying so far.

Getting started early

Our friends at the American Hockey League’s Bakersfield Condors kicked things off in late November and it was Ostap Safin notching the big goal of the game.

Over 4,400 stuffed animals were picked up from the Mechanics Bank Arena ice and donated to organizations that help children in Kern County.

The Hitmen return

The Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen are your annual kings of this event. Since starting the event in 1995, they have donated over 400,000 teddy bears to charity. They were one of the teams that held a drive-thru event last year, allowing fans to head to the Saddledome parking lot and toss their stuffed animals into an inflatable rink.

Last Sunday, back inside the Saddledome with 13,038 fans in attendance, the Hitmen had a false-start to their Teddy Bear Toss. Tyson Galloway‘s shot hit the post, but some fans initially believed it was in and started chucking bears to the ice. Alas, it wasn’t to be. Nearly 1,000 were tossed before the team was able to get the crowd to realize there was no goal to celebrate.

The fans had to wait until late in the second period when Cael Zimmerman gave the OK to start the tossing. In the end, 15,324 bears made it to the ice. Hitmen players helped donate the stuffed animals to over 55 organizations this week, including the Alberta Children’s Hospital and Calgary Food Bank.

Everyone gets involved

While Hitmen fans had to wait, the WHL’s Everett Silvertips got the party start early in their game on Saturday against the Vancouver Giants.

Matthew Ng’s goal 1:54 into the first period unleashed the bears onto the Angel of the Winds Arena ice.

It’s not just fans who get involved. Silvertips play-by-play announcer Casey Bryant took a minute following his call of Ng’s goal to chuck his own bear and nail winger Jackson Berezowski in the back in the process.

The ‘Tips collected 11,096 stuffed animals were to benefit Christmas House, EFD and Volunteers of America.

Bears fly in Florida

Down in the ECHL, it was captain John McCarron scoring the Florida Everblades’ first goal last weekend to signal to the crowd to get those teddy bears down on the Hertz Arena ice.

A very special first goal

Luke Lavery’s opening goal for the Vernon Vipers against the Cranbrook Bucks in British Columbia Hockey League action was meaningful for two reasons. It was his first since being acquired in a trade last week, and it also doubled as their 2021 Teddy Bear Toss goal:

A little bit different in Grand Rapids

The AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins encourage fans to not only toss stuffed animals to the ice after the first goal during Teddy Bear Toss night, they also welcome mitten donations.

The bears and mittens benefit groups in the area like Billy Bear Hug Foundation, which helps kids with critical illnesses.

A lower-bowl view of flying fur

Ever wonder what it’s like down low as thousands of stuffed animals are flying overhead, sometimes even landing on you on their way to the ice? YouTuber “Combo Collectibles” was behind the Ontario Hockey League’s Kitchener Rangers’ bench on Wednesday when Carson Rehkopf’s goal started the fun.

Heads up!

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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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    Bruins set NHL record with 12 straight home wins to start season

    Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
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    BOSTON — The Boston Bruins set the NHL record for most home victories to start a season with their 12th straight, topping the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime with a power-play goal from David Pastrnak.

    The Bruins broke the mark of 11 that was set by the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks and equaled by the Florida Panthers last season.

    “That felt awesome,” Bruins first-year coach Jim Montgomery said. “We talked about it after the second (period) going into the third. There’s been a lot of great teams in this league and you’re able to set a precedent, break a record. It’s pretty special and it doesn’t happen if those guys don’t believe in themselves like they do.”

    Boston, which trailed 2-0 late in the second period, tied it with 9:33 left in regulation when David Krejci scored his second of the game on a shot from the right point.

    “It’s never fun being down going into the third, you’re sitting in here (in the locker room) trying to figure it out,” Krejci said. “You want to come out and do the job, something special on the line. It’s hard to win in this league. To get 12 in a row at home is pretty special.”

    In overtime, Carolina was playing shorthanded after being called for too many men on the ice when Pastrnak one-timed a pass from Brad Marchand inside the far post from above the left circle.

    “It was a big win for us, obviously, coming from behind,” Pastrnak said.

    Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Stefan Noesen each scored a power-play goal for Carolina, and Pyotr Kochetkov made 38 saves. The Hurricanes lost their fifth straight.

    In a rematch of last spring’s opening-round playoff series that the Hurricanes won in seven games, Carolina shutout the NHL’s highest scoring team for nearly two periods and jumped ahead a pair of power-play goals in the opening period.

    “We took too many penalties. That’s hurting us right now,” Kotaniemi said. “I think 5-on-5 we’re doing a really good job. We started good tonight and couldn’t keep that up.”

    Boston’s tying goal was originally disallowed because of goaltender interference on Nick Foligno but overturned on a coach’s challenge after it was ruled that he was nudged into the crease by Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce.

    Boston starting goaltender Linus Ullmark made 28 saves but had to leave with 13:03 left in the third period with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Teammate Connor Clifton had jumped on him to block a shot during a scramble. Jeremy Swayman made six stops in relief.

    Carolina’s Noesen scored at 6:34 in to make it 1-0. And with five minutes left in the period, Kotkaniemi collected the puck near the side of the net after Seth Jarvis‘ shot bounced off the back glass and slipped it inside the post at 15:05.

    Krejci scored for Boston with 31 seconds left in the second.

    Boston came in with a league-high 82 goals in 20 games (4.10 per game), but it was held to relatively few chances despite getting a 5-on-3 power-play advantage early on.

    TAKE NOTE

    The Bruins honored captain Patrice Bergeron, who recorded his 1,000th career point when the team was on the road against Tampa Bay, with a message on the Jumbotron. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

    Bergeron became just the fourth Bruin to reach the mark, joining Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (1,506), Johnny Bucyk (1,339) and Phil Esposito (1,012).

    UP NEXT

    Hurricanes: Host the Calgary Flames.

    Bruins: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    Predators postpone 2 games due to Nashville water main break

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    NASHVILLE, Tenn. —  The Nashville Predators postponed two home games because of a water main break that soaked their downtown arena.

    Hours after the Predators decided they couldn’t play against the Colorado Avalanche, the team announced it also postponed the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Makeup dates for the two games will be announced later.

    The NHL said the water main break that occurred “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

    Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

    “We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

    Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store. The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

    The Predators’ next home game is now scheduled for Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks.

    The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They also had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

    Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

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    ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

    Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

    The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

    Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.

    Toronto’s Morgan Rielly placed on long-term injured reserve

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    TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs placed defenseman Morgan Rielly on long-term injured reserve with a knee injury.

    Rielly was hurt in a collision with with New York forward Kyle Palmieri early in the third period of Toronto’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders at home.

    Rielly has no goals and 16 assists in 20 games this season and is averaging 23 minutes of ice time.

    Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said following practice that the 28-year-old Rielly doesn’t need surgery, adding there’s no firm timeline for his return beyond the minimum 24 days and 10 games required for going on long-term injured reserve.

    Toronto’s defense is also missing Jake Muzzin with a neck injury and T.J. Brodie with an injured oblique.