Hockey teams are spreading holiday cheer with the annual Teddy Bear Toss. Every year, around the holidays, senior and junior hockey leagues participate in the toss. Fans are asked to bring wrapped teddy bears to the game. Once the home team scores their first goal, the fans toss the stuffed animals onto the ice.
The teddy bears are collected and later donated to local charities and other organizations that work with children and have a high demand for stuffed animals. This year, the Bakersfield Condors collected a total of 7,477 bears. The bears donated to the Condors will be picked up by the United Way, to be given to children in need within Kern County.
Washington’s team, the Americans, also participated in the toss. The Americans first began participating in the toss during their first season in 1988-89. Fans that forgot to bring a teddy bear with them were able to purchase one for $5 once they got to the stadium. Goalie, Eric Comrie, was excited about the game, saying, “It’s fun to get some teddy bears for a really good cause.” The team received a total of 25,000 bears during the game. Comrie and teammate, Brian Williams, were some of the players handing out the collected bears to local hospitals. They each had a bag of 50 bears to hand out to children. Comrie had previously told the Tri-City Herald, “When we go to the hospitals and bring the stuffed animals, it’s so exciting to see the kids’ faces light up.”
Hockey teams outside of the United States also participate in the Teddy Bear Toss. The Calgary Hitmen, a junior ice hockey team based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, collected 25,921 bears this year. The toss has been a tradition for the minor league team for more than 19 years. According to CTV News, the Hitmen have received more than 239,000 teddy bears since 1999. The Hitmen donated some of the bears received to patients at the Alberta Children’s Hospital. While most teams donate the bears to their local charities, others will also be giving a portion of the teddy bear donations to the Toys for Tots Foundation and local fire and police departments.