Hockey’s Most Adorable Tradition Involves Over 25,000 Teddy Bears

OK, Canada, this is pretty great.

Minor league sports franchises live in relative anonymity to the casual sports fan. Their games typically don’t draw huge crowds and only a handful of their players go on to make an impact on the professional level. But there is one thing minor league teams get right, and that’s weird promotions.

The Calgary Hitmen are a Junior League team owned by the Calgary Flames that play in the Western Hockey League — to the average sports fan they might as well be a Quidditch team from Saturn.

But this past weekend the Hitmen hosted the 19th annual Petro-Canada Teddy Bear Toss — aka the greatest promotion in minor league hockey and perhaps the greatest promotion anywhere.

What is a Teddy Bear Toss, you ask? Well, it’s when 17,000 Calgary Hitmen fans make it rain with over 25,000 stuffed animals when their beloved Hitmen (ha, beloved hitmen) score their first goal of the game.

According to the Hitmen website, “Fans are asked to bring a stuffed toy (or two) to the game and toss it on the ice when the Hitmen score their first goal. All stuffed toys will then be shared amongst local charities in time for the holiday season, including the Cerebral Palsy Assocation, Salvation Army, Boys and Girls Clubs, Alberta Children’s Hospital, etc.”

This time it went down in the second period, when Hitmen winger Pavlo Padakin scored to break a 0-0 tie and send the Scotiabank Saddledome crowd into stuffed animal-tossing fury.

It was the second year in row that Padakin scored the Teddy Bear Toss goal. He celebrated by doing snow angels on the ice.

Because what else are you going to do when it’s raining stuffed animals?

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