Bear In Mind

Saturday, 01.26.13 / 1:40 PM
By Stockton Thunder Staff

Teddy Bear Toss continues to be a strong, popular tradition

By Ruben Dominguez – Thunder staff writer

One of the unique aspects of professional ice hockey is, at certain moments, fans are expected to throw objects onto the playing surface. When a player for the home team scores a hat trick, fans throw their hats onto the ice. During promotional events such as “Chuck a Puck”, fans throw foam pucks onto the ice to win prizes.

Sometimes, animals (real and fake) get involved. When you think of animals being thrown onto the ice, you think of the octopi, plastic rats, steaks, catfish, and salmon. You think of…teddy bears?

That’s right, teddy bears. Teddy bears are not often thrown onto the ice, but when they are, they come in great number and are going towards a great and charitable cause.

“Teddy Bear Toss” is a tradition that’s been gaining much support and participation across the hockey world. Teams designate one home game each season as a “Teddy Bear Toss” game. Fans are encouraged to bring teddy bears and stuffed animals to the game.

When the home team scores their first goal of the night, the bears rain down. Fans throw the stuffed animals onto the ice, creating a cascade of plush toys. After they have been removed from the ice, the stuffed animals are given to local nonprofit organizations.

“One of the best things about Teddy Bear Toss,” Thunder president Dan Chapman said, “is that we gather up all the stuffed animals (usually in the 3,000-4,000 range) and take them over to United Way. We fill their office spaces totally with stuffed animals.”

“Along with two or three current Thunder players, and some office staff,” Chapman continued, “we just start counting and distributing. We have some kids from the local youth organizations there as well. It’s just a really fun day.”

The Bakersfield Condors are one of the predominant Teddy Bear Toss teams in the ECHL, receiving 7,639 teddy bears in this season’s game while holding a record of over 8,000 collected in one game and over 80,000 total collected in fourteens seasons.

Teddy Bear Toss is also extremely popular in the WHL, where Calgary Hitmen are the kings of teddy bears, claiming their throne in 2007 when, after Calgary’s first goal, 17,341 fans threw 26,919 teddy bears onto the ice.

During the first Teddy Bear Toss at Stockton Arena, a group of fans brought an enormous—bigger than a human—purple stuffed teddy bear. You can’t even call it a teddy bear; it was a bear. That bear was then, slowly but surely, raised over the glass and onto the ice. Ever since then, there has been at least one giant-sized stuffed animal on the ice.

Thunder fans will soon have their chance to participate in such a worthwhile and noble cause this season. The Thunder’s eighth annual Teddy Bear Toss is set for Saturday, Jan. 26 against the Utah Grizzlies, with the puck dropping at Stockton Arena at 7:30 p.m.

Last season, then-rookie forward Jesse Fratkin beat the first period buzzer to put the Thunder on the board and send the teddy bears down during Teddy Bear Toss. It was en extremely successful night, as 4,706 stuffed animals were picked up. The Thunder also picked up a wild 7-5 win over the Las Vegas Wranglers. The Thunder holds a 4-1-2 record in Teddy Bear Toss games.

All fans who wish to attend Teddy Bear Toss are encouraged to bring teddy bears and other stuffed animals to throw onto the ice. Teddy Bear Toss is an incredible cause, one that rewards both fans and the children that benefit from fan generosity.

“The look in their eyes is like it’s Christmas day,” said Chapman, “It’s just one of those things where they can’t believe what they’re seeing. They’re seeing thousands of teddy bears in front of them, with a few hockey players in their jerseys there to meet them and greet them and take pictures with them. It’s just a really fun thing.”