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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