As the snow starts to stay on the ground, setting in the frigid reality of another winter in Western Canada and the U.S. Pacific Northwest, there is an opportunity for Western Hockey League fans to feel the warmth.
With winter comes the return of Teddy Bear Toss games throughout the WHL and other hockey markets across North America.
The tradition began in British Columbia’s interior with the Kamloops Blazers in 1993, who sent a shower of stuffed animals onto the ice. Just last year, the Blazers hosted the 25th edition of their game and will help begin this year’s festivities with Saturday’s game against the Portland Winterhawks.
As this weekend sees the transition from November into December, five Teddy Bear Toss games will see the momentum build to help provide Christmas spirit to all. While the Blazers hold onto the historic side of things from a length perspective, the Calgary Hitmen will be looking to shine once more from a numerical perspective.
The Hitmen’s support of the event in recent seasons has been matched by their fans, with the number of teddy bears thrown swelling to 29,635 last year at the Scotiabank Saddledome off Kaden Elder’s magical goal. The Edmonton Oil Kings, who’ll host their annual Teddy Bear Toss on Saturday, December 7 (7:00 p.m. MT) while the Calgary Hitmen pay a visit to Rogers Place.
With ample room to pack fans inside their building, the Edmonton Oil Kings have also shown to support the event, throwing 14,981 teddy bears and stuffed animals onto the ice in the provincial capital after Jalen Luypen’s celebratory goal.
Also celebrating Teddy Bear Toss games this weekend will be the Swift Current Broncos, Medicine Hat Tigers, and Kelowna Rockets.
The other 17 WHL member Clubs will follow with their own versions of the Toque and Mitten or Teddy Bear Toss throughout the rest of December and into January as the Seattle Thunderbirds wrap up this year’s schedule of events with their event on Saturday, January 11 (6:05 p.m. PT) as they play host to the Portland Winterhawks.
Each year gives teams an opportunity to don some wacky Christmas-themed jerseys as well. Last year, the Oil Kings and Vancouver Giants sported unique threads. The Oil Kings’ uniforms gave off the teddy bear impression complete with the fuzzy tail at the back. When the Giants hosted their game, they took on the role of Santa’s elves.
When all 22 games have come and gone, the best part is still yet to come as team’s take the toys and deliver them throughout their local markets to hospitals and local charities. While the shower of teddy bears and stuffed animals during the game provides the best picture of the excitement, the real legwork is done in the days following as toys and stuffed animals are sorted while players help to distribute the toys to those in need of a holiday boost.
Two years ago, the Rockets documented their trip to Kelowna General Hospital, with members of the 2017-18 team spreading holiday joy.
Be sure to check out a Teddy Bear or Toque and Mitten Toss game near you this holiday season!