The hockey world is known for its charitable nature, particularly around the holiday season. While the Teddy Bear Toss is a time-honoured tradition throughout minor and junior hockey, the Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen has long been considered the champion of that particular fundraiser. This past weekend, the Hitmen held their 21st annual Teddy Bear Toss, as the event began its third decade at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
Hitmen winger Jordy Stallard scored 2:41 into the second period, tying the game at 1-1 and triggering an avalanche of 28,815 plush animals from the sellout crowd of 19,289. Philadelphia Flyers draft pick Travis Sanheim and winger Layne Bensmiller earned assists. The goal by Stallard snapped a streak of three consecutive years that the Teddy Bear goal had been scored by an import player – Pavel Padakin scored in 2012 and 2013, while Radel Fazleev scored last season. The bear count set a new record, shattering the previous mark of 26,919 set in 2008, while it was the first-ever sellout crowd for the event. The fact that both records were set during an economic slowdown in Alberta’s oil-driven economy makes them doubly impressive.
Since the first Teddy Bear Toss game on December 16, 1995 – when Borys Protsenko’s goal sent a modest 1,323 bears flying – the event has become a staple on Calgary’s cultural and sports calendar, with 276,000 fans contributing over 298,000 stuffed animals to dozens of charities in the Calgary area since its inception. Approximately 50 local charities had requested stuffed animal donations from this year’s stuffed animal haul.
The Hitmen won the game 2-1 in a shootout, extending their winning streak in Teddy Bear Toss games to four.