For 19-straight years, fans have circled this date on their calendar.
The Hitmen’s Petro-Canada Teddy Bear Toss game annually brings the attention of the hockey world to Calgary’s Western Hockey League club as the crowd eagerly await who will score the goal that sends thousands of bears falling to ice level. It’s not just a spectacle though, it is a good cause that puts on display the generosity of an entire city.
The 19th edition of the holiday tradition was no different on Sunday as 17,199 fans filled the Scotiabank Saddledome. While the festivities began before puck drop, the furry bombardment began at 3:42 of the second period when Pavel Padakin became the first Hitmen player to score back-to-back teddy bear goals.
It is the one game of the year that regardless of the standings, everyone comes out to support a good cause and be part of the atmosphere. People of all ages walk through the building doors with garbage bags full of stuffed animals of all sizes. The game offers its own experience regardless of where you sit. From high above, you can see the madness unfold, test your arm strength and maybe even film the next YouTube sensation. From down-low, you’re part of a shoveling crew that makes sure each and every bear gets to the ice.
“This is how I kick off my holiday season. If this doesn’t bring the spirit out in you, nothing will,” said Corey Hallisey, who was at his 13th teddy bear toss game on Sunday. “When you got 20-plus thousand teddy bears raining down from the rafters, it’s a pretty spectacular thing to see.”
After the year it was in Calgary, it’s no surprise that 2013 saw the Hitmen collect 25,921 teddy bears, the most since setting the world-record in 2007. The city has shown continuous perseverance following the floods that devastated southern Alberta this past summer and this annual holiday tradition was just another chance for Calgarians to show how much they care.
Over 50 local agencies requested teddy bears this holiday season including the Alberta Children’s Hospital, Boys and Girls Club of Calgary, YWCA, Red Cross, Salvation Army and Calgary Food Bank. Since 1999, the team have donated more than 239,000 bears to the Calgary community.
“I wouldn’t miss this, it’s the best game of the year when you see the number of people here, and you just don’t get that until you go deep into the playoffs,” shared Kim “Santa” Thomas.
It brings the people out, it’s a very giving community, especially this year because of the floods. You watch everyone walk in and they all had more than one bear.”
Maybe the best part of the game is the satisfaction every fan has, knowing they will be making someone’s day at a special time of year. Tomorrow, players will distribute teddy bears to different agencies before finishing the day at the Alberta Children’s Hospital to give deserving kids a new fuzzy friend.