The Teddy Bear Toss, a tradition held in hockey lore, just set its new record.
On December 3rd, 2017, the Hershey Bears (or technically the Hershey Bears’ fanbase) set the record for most stuffed animals thrown on the ice during a professional game with a whopping 25,017 plush toys tossed onto the Giant Center floor after a 2nd period goal from Liam O’Brien.
We truly have the greatest fans, don’t we? Here’s yet another great angle to show thousands of teddy bears being donated to local charities! Another successful Teddy Bear Toss ✔️ #HBH #DefendTheDen #TeddyBearTossHershey pic.twitter.com/s1GEYDs0Fc
— Hershey Bears (@TheHersheyBears) December 4, 2017
Simply a feel-good practice, the Teddy Bear Toss originated in the WHL with the major junior team, the Kamloops Blazers, in 1993. The WHL is in fact central to the Teddy Bear Toss as a whole, as the main cities involved in the toss are Prince Georgia, Calgary, and Portland, Oregon. These cities are home to record-setting teams within the tradition, the Calgary Hitmen, Portland Winter Hawks, and Prince Georgia Cougars. While Hershey set the record for stuffed animals in a professional game with 25,017, Calgary established the overarching record with over 28,000 thrown on December 6th, 2015.
Each teddy bear is intended to go to a child in need of a lift during the holiday season, specifically being sent to children’s hospitals in the area of the Toss. In cheering up the kids, the players often receive an experience along with it. Oftentimes, teams like the Kamloops Blazers will employ their players to personally deliver the toys to the sick kids, prompting fantastic connections between the public and the players and, furthermore, just brightening the kids’ day even more.
The most intriguing aspect of the tradition is that, despite the largest professional hockey league staying away from it, it has widely grown in popularity. While the practice has infiltrated areas as far away as Australia, the NHL still abstains from participation stating, “player safety is an obvious reason, but so is fan safety. At NHL arenas, a high percentage of anything thrown in the stands would hit other fans.”
As time passes, one can only hope that this charitable outreach grows more and more, eventually permeating the NHL, and any other leagues currently abstaining from participation. A little holiday cheer can go a long way.