The Calgary Hitmen of Canada’s Western Hockey League set a club record Sunday as fans of the team threw 28,815 stuffed animals to the ice for the team’s annual Teddy Bear Toss.
The nearly 29,000 stuffed animals were shared with 50 community organizations in Alberta. Groups such as the Salvation Army and the local food bank are among the organizations that will be sharing the stuffed animals with needy children for the holidays.
Hitmen fans were instructed to throw the toys onto the ice whenever the team scored their first goal. That goal was scored by 18-year-old Jordy Stallard. Fans had to wait until early in the second period for the opportunity to throw their stuffed animals onto the ice.
When Stallard scored, pandemonium broke loose. The cleanup caused a 37-minute delay as team officials and players joined to collect the stuffed animals and load the bed of seven pickup trucks.
“It’s funny, you hear the older players trying to explain to the younger players on what to expect, but it’s always understated,” Hitmen head coach Mark French said. “The magnitude of it all is hard to explain. The event has taken on a life of its own and it’s something that we certainly highlight on the calendar.
“It was one of those moments we wanted the guys to go out and enjoy.”
Sunday’s game attracted a sold-out crowd 19,289; a club record for the junior squad that shares the arena with the NHL’s Calgary Flames.
The Hitmen have hosted the Teddy Bear Toss every year since 1995. The event has helped raise 300,000 stuffed animals for local charities.
Justin Boggs is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @jjboggs.