There are many reasons why Teddy Bear Toss time is our favorite time of the year on the hockey calendar.
First, it's a promotion that involves charity, and that's always cool with us. Charity is our jam.
Second, it brings the hockey fan community together as one, like jeering an opponent with a funny chant or booing Gary Bettman or participating in the wave … OK, maybe not that last one, but you see our point.
Third, FLYING TEDDY BEARS!
We featured the Teddy Bear Toss events of the ECHL's Bakersfield Condors and Olimpija of Slovenia earlier this week as an appetizer. On Sunday afternoon, the kings of the Teddy Bear Toss, the WHL's Calgary Hitmen and their fans, brought us the main event:
Here's a view from ice level:
Pavlo Padakin's goal 13:27 into the first period gave the Hitmen an early 1-0 lead en route to a 4-1 win over Kootenay and signaled to the 16,912 fans in attendance at the Calgary Saddledome to make it rain with teddy bears.
According to the team, the final tally of bears was 21,453, down from 25,003 last year and 23,096 the year before. It's still a fantastic showing that many teams will try to beat, but ultimately fall short in attempting. Including Sunday's count, the Hitmen have now seen an incredible 200,000-plus bears hit the ice since 1999.
Sunday's event was the 18th edition of the Teddy Bear Toss hosted by the Hitmen. Over 50 charities will benefit from the donated teddy bears with players distributing them beginning Monday.
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy