While tossing hats onto the ice when a player scores three goals might be hockey's most famous tossing tradition, it simply doesn't compare to the Technicolor grandeur of 23,096 teddy bears and other stuffed animals blanketing the rink as they did at the Calgary Hitmen game on Sunday:
For 16 years the Hitmen, who were co-owned by and named after former WWF champion Bret Hart, have held a Teddy Bear Toss to benefit over 50 charities in Alberta that work with children. On Monday, after the 23,000-strong toss, the players hand-delivered teddy bears to the Alberta Children's Hospital.
The fans bring the stuffed animals to the game and then wait for the first goal to be scored. For the 16,844 fans at the Scotiabank Saddledome watching the Hitmen take on the Red Deer Rebels on Sunday, the honor went to Cody Sylvester at 3:49 of the first period. He scored, and the mayhem started and continued for 40 minutes while play was delayed. "It's unbelievable," Sylvester told the Examiner after the game. "Scoring in front of all those fans and all those teddy bears coming down on you -- it's a pretty special moment."
Here's a longer look at the Teddy Bear Toss: a five-minute clip that chronicles what it was like to sit against the glass and have 23,000 stuffed animals pelting you, the other fans and, eventually, the ice.
This year's total was an improvement on last season's 16,755 bears. The Hitmen own the world record for the Teddy Bear Toss, now a minor league hockey tradition, with 26,919 in 2007. If you're wondering what that looked like, here's a glimpse.
[Rewind: Fan taser incident interrupts game]
The Teddy Bear Toss may not be one of hockey's most well-known traditions, but for the teams that hold them there's nothing else like it.
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- Calgary Hitmen
- teddy bears