The Calgary Hitmen are celebrating their 20th Western Hockey League season in 2014-15. And that means there was another anniversary celebrated in Calgary – the annual Teddy Bear Toss.
The December 7 game between the Hitmen and the Moose Jaw Warriors was the 20th annual installment of the Teddy Bear Toss. First held by the Hitmen on December 15, 1995, the event has raised over 245,000 stuffed animals for local charities from over 240,000 fans. Long a staple of junior and minor pro hockey, Calgary’s Teddy Bear Toss is estimated to be the largest annual event of its kind, primarily because the Hitmen play in an NHL building – the Scotiabank Saddledome – and have the capacity to generate donations north of 20,000 bears per year.
The event is regularly the biggest event on the Hitmen calendar attendance-wise: it drew 17,199 last season and a record 18,105 in 2009. In terms of stuffed animal donations, it generated 25,912 last year and a record 26,919 in in 2007.
Philadelphia Flyers draft pick Radel Fazleev scored the Teddy Bear Goal at 1:38 of the first period this year, triggering a flood of toys from the sold-out Scotiabank Saddledome. Notable past scorers of Teddy Bear Goals include Andrew Ladd (2003), Ryan Getzlaf (2004) and Brandon Kozun (2008). Pavel Padakin had scored the goal for back-to-back seasons (2012 and 2013), but he was traded to Regina earlier this season due to the Hitmen being overloaded with both imports and over-age players. True to form, Padakin scored the bear-triggering goal in Regina’s Teddy Bear Toss earlier this month.
Team officials estimated approximately 25,214 bears and other stuffed creatures were donated by a crowd of 17,543. The donations will be distributed amongst 60 local charities in the Calgary area just in time for the holiday season.
Ryan Pike has covered the Calgary Flames and the NHL Draft extensively since 2010 as a Senior Writer for The Hockey Writers and Senior Contributing Editor of FlamesNation.ca. A member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, he lives in Calgary.