The Hershey Teddy Bear Toss
The Hershey Bears, minor league affiliate of the Washington Capitals, are one of the elite franchises in the entire American Hockey League. They have amassed a total of eleven Calder Cup Championships as they enter their 75th season, highlighted by the AHL Outdoor Classic hosted outside at Hershey Park Stadium on January 20th, 2013. What fans might not notice as much is their impact on the community off the ice.
Throughout the year, Hershey auctions off specific game worn jerseys, giving each Bears’ fan a chance to get their favorite player’s sweater. Bears enforcer Matt Clackson’s jersey was purchased for $3500 on opening night, over twice the amount of the team signed jersey. The Hershey Bears also recently auctioned off pink sticks, as well as a team autographed photo to promote breast cancer awareness. The Bears’ Ryan Potulny and Jon DiSalvatore were recently named alternate captains, with their charity work a factor the selection process. Jon DiSalvatore also helped led the Bears “Movember” campaign, chipping in money from his own pocket for the goals scored over a weekend in November, and also encouraging fans to follow him on twitter.
The Hershey Bears recently held their Teddy Bear Toss Night this season on December 1st, encouraging fans to bring their teddy bears to the game and throw them on the ice when Hershey scores their first goal. Tomas Kundratek scored the first and only goal for the Bears that night, which was immediately followed by a grand total of 12,497 bears being chucked onto the ice. The game has become a big thing in Chocolate town, with fans often filling the seats to nearly full capacity.
“I don’t know if there’s any other place that would have that support,” Bears coach Mark French said of the Teddy Bear toss. “Certainly the fans here should be applauded for what they did.”
“I got hit a couple times by a couple teddy bears,” Bears defenseman Tomas Kundratek said. “It was a good feeling.”
The Bears charitable efforts will undoubtedly continue, with philanthropy becoming a stamp of one of the AHL’s elite organizations.