Hitmen host annual event for Christmas charities
robin kuniski/for metro calgary
Third-generation Calgarian Shane Moore has only missed one Hitmen Teddy Bear Toss in the event’s 13 year history.
“It’s always special,” says Moore, who brought his wife Kara and their 18-month-old daughter Madelyn to yesterday’s game. “We start shopping for teddy bears on Boxing Day for the next year.”
The Hitmen hold the toss during a regular season game to collect Christmas gifts for local charities, including the Salvation Army and Alberta Children’s Hospital. Fans clutch their cute and cuddly donations, waiting anxiously for the first Hitmen goal of the game. That’s when they can start tossing Disney characters, SpongeBob Square Pants stuffies and plain old teddy bears onto the ice.
The magic moment of toy-throwing mayhem came early on in yesterday’s game. Centre Ian Duval scored a power-play goal at 4:52, to send thousands of lions, tigers, bears and other stuffed creatures careening through the air towards the ice.
“It’s pretty exciting to be the one to start all those teddy bears flying,” says Duval. “It’s also bragging rights in the dressing room.”
Teddy Toss organizers also had something to brag about during yesterday’s game, as this year’s total number of stuffed animals smashed last year’s record with an estimated count of 26,919 toys. It also beat the Hurricanes’ total of 22,736 stuffed toys tossed last Friday night in Lethbridge.
“It just keeps getting bigger every year,” says Hitmen director of business operations Kip Reghenas.
Peter and Michelle Barten brought their teenage sons Matthew and John to witness the toss for the first time. “Calgary has been very good to us,” says Peter, who moved here from New Mexico last year. “We want to give back any way we can.”
The Hitmen also gave a little back to their fans with a 6-2 win over the Prince George Cougars.