The arrival of the holiday season means a few things – Christmas music on repeat, “Elf” playing on ABC Family, and eggnog. In the hockey world, it also means the Teddy Bear Toss.
The Teddy Bear Toss has been a growing holiday tradition in hockey for 25 years, where teams invite fans to throw stuffed animals onto the ice in celebration of the home team’s first goal of the game. Teams then donate 100 percent of the stuffed animals to local charities, hospitals and organizations working to help children in need during the holidays.
The Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League have historically held the record for most teddy bears thrown in a game, tallying an incredible 28,815 stuffed animals.
This year, however, the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League took the tradition to the next level.
The team knew they wanted to beat the Hitmen’s previous record. “We knew of the Calgary Hitmen and we knew what they had done. We had 25,000 last year and we went ‘alright, we’re only 3,000 off,” said Zach Fisch, spokesperson for the Bears. “We kind of just wanted to beat what the Hitmen had.”
The Bears didn’t just beat the record - they smashed it entirely. After Riley Barber scored the opening goal, thousands of animals poured over the glass and onto the ice. The final count? A staggering 34,798 stuffed animals.
That means a gift for 34,798 different children delivered through about 30 different charities around Pennsylvania, all in time for the holidays.
In true sports fashion, the new record has sparked a competitive and charitable motivation across the hockey world. The Calgary Hitmen want their record back. “We’re excited about it because there is a need for us to top their number. We’d be happy to put those bears into the community where they could be used,” said Rob Kerr, assistant manager of business operations for the Hitmen. “It’s great that Hershey set it and it’s a great title. We’re very confident that we’re going to be able to beat it.”
The Hitmen hosted their Teddy Bear Toss game this past weekend, but despite their determination, they could not reclaim their world record. Nevertheless, they did set a new franchise record with 29,635 teddy bears thrown onto the ice, gifting thousands of children in the process.