Teddy bears rained down onto the ice Sunday in the Scotiabank Saddledome when Pavlo Padikan scored the first goal in a game that's become an 18-year tradition for the Calgary Hitmen hockey team.
After the first goal on Petro-Canada Teddy Bear Toss night, fans bombarded the team with plushies, 21,453 to be exact, which piled up so thick and fast it took Padikan by surprise.
"I thought it was just a couple of bears, like a lot, but not this much. I was like ‘oh my gosh’ what do I need to do. I can’t skate to the bench because of all of these bears," he's quoted on the team website saying.
Players consider it an honor to score the goal that triggers the stuffed avalanche.
Over the years, the Hitmen say they have given away more than 213,000 bears to Calgary charities. You can see some of the smiles their deliveries bring on their website.
This year, they say nearly 50 organizations have requested to receive bears from the team including the Alberta Children's Hospital, the Boys and Girls Club and the Calgary Food Bank.
Hockey fans have a long tradition of throwing wacky stuff onto the ice. In Florida, Panthers fans used to throw plastic rats to celebrate a big goal. In Detroit, fans throw dead octopi onto the ice to celebrate a Red Wings win (that started back in 1952 when teams needed eight wins to take the Stanley Cup -- eight wins, eight arms). Hockey fans in general have been known to throw hats when a player scores three goals in a game, what's known as a "hat trick."
Teddy Bear and toque tosses are popular events around the Western Hockey League. Last year, several teams hosted events where fans threw stuffed toys, hats or mittens onto the ice. Other teams collected canned goods as fans entered the stadium.
For the record, the Hitmen went on to beat the Kootenay Ice 4-1.