Nearly 30K stuffed animals fly during Calgary Hitmen’s Teddy Bear Toss night

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The WHL’s Calgary Hitmen fell short in their quest to reclaim the Teddy Bear Toss world record.

One week after the AHL’s Hershey Bears saw 34,798 teddy bears fly to their ice and break the Hitmen’s 2015 record, the crowd inside the Saddledome made it rain with fur Sunday afternoon after Kaden Elder’s first period goal. The 18,015 fans, many of whom brought large plastic bags filled with stuffed animals, helped break a franchise Teddy Bear Toss record with a total of 29,635, up from the 28,815 collected three years ago.

“It was an awesome experience and something I’ll never forget,” Elder said via the Hitmen website. “The atmosphere in the rink was unbelievable with all the fans and the teddy bears. It was definitely an adrenaline rush and when it went in I was thinking about the celebration and kind of zoned out because I was trying to just take in the moment and enjoy every second of it. It just a surreal moment.”

After a 41-minute cleanup delay, the Hitmen went on to win 6-3 over the Kamloops Blazers.

The Hitmen have now collected a total of 377,583 stuffed animals since their first Teddy Bear Toss promotion in 1995.

The event helps benefit 70 local agencies, including the Salvation Army, Calgary Food Bank, Siksika Nation and Hospice Calgary. The Hitmen will spend Monday delivering some of stuffed animals to Alberta Children’s Hospital.

MORE: Teddy Bear Toss season is the best season

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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.

Teddy Bear Toss season is the best season

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Once U.S. Thanksgiving comes and goes and the holiday season arrives, that can only mean one thing in the hockey world: Teddy Bear Toss time.

If you’re not familiar with the event, teams encourage fans to bring stuffed animals to the rink and when the home team score their first goal of the night they let the fur fly. It’s a promotion that’s taken place in junior and minor hockey since the early 1990s and has taken off in the last decade.

On Saturday night, the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors hosted their Teddy Bear Toss Night and Joseph Gambardella was the one to get the party started in the second period.

The count took place on Monday and, according to the Condors, there were 8,415 stuffed animals tossed onto the Rabobank Arena ice, the second-highest total in team history. In the 20-year history of the event, the team has donated nearly 130,000 stuffed animals to dozens of organizations through the United Way of Kern County.

That was just the warmup.

In two weeks, the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen will host their Teddy Bear Toss Night, and if you haven’t seen what the atmosphere is like inside Scotiabank Saddledome when the fur gets flying, it’s something special. The team has set the bar for this promotion with their fans delivering every year. Last season’s event saw 24,605 stuffed animals collected, just 4,000 shy of the all time record of 28,815 they hit in 2015.

It’s truly the greatest promotion in sports.

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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.

This Texas Stars goal was the result of a comical sequence of events

AHL

The Texas Stars edged the Tucson Roadrunners 5-4 in overtime Monday night to take a 2-1 series lead in the second round of the AHL’s Calder Cup playoffs.

It was the Stars’ third goal, scored by Brian Flynn, that was the most unique of the evening. The sequence leading to his AHL-leading sixth goal of the postseason can only be described as eventful.

So let’s go through all of this.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Roope Hintz zooms through the neutral zone between two Roadrunners players, who then proceed to collide with one another. Hintz then attempts to dump the puck into the opposite corner, but instead it goes off of Tuscon defenseman Dakota Mermis’ face. Flynn then seizes the opportunity and pounces on the loose puck and beats Adin Hill on his second attempt.

Just how they drew it up!

Mermis summed it up pretty perfectly afterward. “Certainly that was one of the most bizarre goals that’s happened,” he told the Arizona Daily Star. “But that’s playoff hockey and that’s the bounces that happen.”

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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.

Jarome Iginla skates with AHL Providence, still wants to play

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Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

Jarome Iginla is still without a team but isn’t giving up hope just yet on one last ride in the NHL.

The 40-year-old Iginla, who last played in 2016-17 with the Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings, was spotted on the ice at Providence Bruins practice on Tuesday, but there’s nothing in the works as far as a deal anywhere, he told the Providence Journal’s Mark Divver.

Iginla’s name popped up in contention for a spot on the Canadian Olympic team this fall, but a hip procedure cost him time on the ice and ultimately a place in GM Sean Burke’s final roster for PyeongChang. (The Canadians are doing just fine without him having reached the semifinals of the tournament.)

Now living in the Boston area after buying a house last spring, Iginla, who played 78 games with the NHL Bruins during the 2013-14 season, was simply taking advantage of a favor from the team. He’s expected to skate with AHL Providence again on Thursday as he continues to see where his body is physically.

Iginla — and for that matter, U.S. Olympian Brian Gionta, who’s also looking to continue playing — can sign with any NHL team, but to be eligible to play in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs a deal needs to be inked before the 3 p.m. ET trade deadline next Monday.

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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.

Weather forces AHL’s Charlotte Checkers to play game in empty arena (Video)

Charlotte Checkers
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The Director of Finance/Controller filled in as the public address announcer. The Chief Operating Officer acted as the arena DJ. Ticket sales staff? They worked as the ice crew. A corporate salesperson ran the video board. The camerawoman regularly handles merchandise. Even the mascot, Chubby, was played by a corporate servicing specialist.

Wednesday night wasn’t your typical American Hockey League game at Bojangles’ Coliseum for the Charlotte Checkers. Inclement weather in the area forced the team to close the game to the public. But since the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and referees were already in town, and it would have been difficult to get Bridgeport back to Charlotte for a makeup, it was game on.

So in front of a crowd of, well, Checkers employees doubling as game operations staff, the teams played and the home side came out on top 4-3, thanks to a three-goal third period.

Here’s what a goal by the home team sounded like:

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The lack of a crowd didn’t stop the Checkers from acting like it was a normal game day. The mascot kept working and even “Cotton-Eyed Joe” was played to rev up the…players, I guess? It also wouldn’t have been a game night without the “Kiss Cam.”

This wasn’t the first time the team has played a game that was closed to the public. Back in 2016 Winter Storm Jonas caused a number of sporting events to be postponed, but not for the Checkers, who had their staff run the game.

The Checkers are off the next two days as they prepare to face the Rochester Americans in a two-game set this weekend. The weather in Charlotte will be much better over the next couple of days, which means the Checkers’ staff will be able to get back to their regular jobs.

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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.