We all know what a community means to its junior hockey team. From purchasing tickets and merchandise to create revenue, to cheering on the players at home games. The community is the heartbeat of its junior hockey team.
But what do BC Hockey League teams mean to their communities? The impact of a local junior hockey team may never be as important as it is at this time of the year.
Year after year, BCHL teams spend time and resources making the holiday season better for those in need.
From teddy bear tosses and toy drives to volunteering their time for charities. BCHL teams pay it back during the holiday season in many different ways.
Here are just a few examples of what BCHL teams do in their communities, and how they directly affect those in need.
The teddy bear toss
One of the greatest traditions in junior hockey is the teddy bear toss. When the home team scores its first goal of the game on teddy bear toss night, the stuffed animals begin to fly.
— Powell River Kings (@BCHLKings) December 11, 2020
Having each fan in attendance bring a stuffy to the game for the purpose of being thrown to the ice and collected is an effective way of donating to those in need.
Stuffed bears aren’t the only thing you will see flying around on teddy bear toss night. All kinds of stuffed animals, as well as toques, mittens, and scarves will be collected and donated to children, adults, and seniors.
Earlier in December, fellow BCHLNetwork writer Eric Clarke acknowledged the teddy bear toss tradition in the BCHL. In an article, Eric ranked some of the more memorable teddy bear tosses in the recent history of the league.
As noted in his article, some of the beneficiaries of these donations include the local Salvation Army, hospitals, seniors centres, and other charities. Once the items are donated by the teams, they are then distributed to those in need to spread some joy during the holiday season.
During a global pandemic, however, there are no teddy bear tosses. So how do children in need get their stuffed animals? Some teams, like the Nanaimo Clippers, did a reverse teddy bear toss.
Announcing our Reverse Teddy Bear Toss in partnership with The Great Nanaimo Toy Drive!
We are excited to be able to provide a contactless solution to still donating toys this holiday season!
— Nanaimo Clippers (@ClippersHockey) December 9, 2020
The Clippers, in partnership with the Great Nanaimo Toy Drive, are selling stuffed animals named Keel the Seal, to be donated to families in need.
In Powell River, the Kings also held a reverse teddy bear toss, in support of the local Salvation Army. The Kings recently sent out a tweet thanking those who donated food, teddy bears, clothes, and cash.
Toy drives, hampers, and 50/50 draws
The Great Nanaimo Toy Drive is just one initiative getting help from BCHL teams this holiday season. There are many other drives also going on around the province.
Another BCHL team contributing to a toy drive is the Coquitlam Express. The Express recently went on a shopping trip to collect some gifts for families in need. They also thanked SHARE Society for its work in the community, particularly this time of year.
This morning we went shopping for Christmas Gifts for families in need.
— Coquitlam Express (@BCHLExpress) December 17, 2020
The West Kelowna Warriors put on an outstanding hamper drive themselves this December. In an article on the team’s website, the Warriors shared that they were able to fill and distribute 120 Christmas hampers to families this year.
They were also able to raise $1,115 for the Pulmonary Hypertension Association of Canada, through their Brendan Ritchie Day initiative.
In Penticton, the Vees teamed up with Princess Margaret Leadership students to raise money for Christmas hampers. For their part of the partnership, the Vees are selling scarves with a portion of the proceeds going towards the hampers.
The Vees also partnered up with the BC Hockey Hall of Fame and held a 50/50 draw in support of Okanagan Similkameen Neurological Society Youth and Child Development Centre.
Vees online 50/50 is back in support of a great cause!
We will be running a two-week-long draw from December 3rd, until December 16th at 3 pm.
50% of the proceeds will be donated to @osns_child!
— Penticton Vees (@PentictonVees) December 3, 2020
One of the Vees rivals from the Okanagan region is also supporting a 50/50 draw. The Vernon Vipers sent out a tweet announcing they are proud to support the Vernon Firefighters 50/50 draw.
Again, these are just a few examples of BCHL teams stepping up to help support good causes during the holiday season.
Another common contribution from junior hockey teams is simply volunteering their time. There are many different ways that BCHL teams volunteer over the holidays.
The Trail Smoke Eaters, for example, put themselves to work by helping the Kiwanis Club unload Christmas trees. The trees were then sold, with all proceeds going to local community needs.
The Smokies also offered free delivery to seniors and draw prizes to entice the community to support.
Players and staff from the Trail Smoke Eaters helped the Kiwanis Club unload Christmas trees this morning. 100% of the proceeds go to local community needs. Special thanks to @TheCityofTrail for the use of the park! More details below. pic.twitter.com/mYzMxzO00I
— Trail Smoke Eaters (@BCHLSmokeEaters) November 25, 2020
One of the more common forms of volunteering for BCHL teams is ringing bells at the Salvation Army Christmas kettles. It may not be something ever shown on social media, and it may not even happen every year.
However, every junior hockey player has spent hours ringing bells next to the Christmas kettles in support of the Salvation Army.
The Merritt Centennials volunteered their time recently by supporting local hero Darius Sam on his run for mental health. The Cents tweeted a pair of photos from the run and included the following message:
”You’re a warrior Darius, congratulations on the positive impact you have made on our community and around the world!”
The Centennials also supported the community by attending the finale of Country Christmas week in Merritt. The day included spending some quality time with kids and Santa.
— Merritt Centennials (@BCHLCentennials) December 1, 2019
The Victoria Grizzlies gave up some of their time and resources recently as they adopted a pair of families for Christmas. After filling and delivering a Christmas hamper to each family, the Grizzlies tweeted out some photos, and thanked those involved in the initiative.
These are just a few examples, but the list of volunteering opportunities expands to include many more events. BCHL teams also help out at elementary schools, community Christmas dinners, seniors homes, and more.
The Prince George Spruce Kings took part in an annual Seniors Christmas Tea, which had 900 people in attendance back in 2018. Each senior was served tea at the event, and went home with a present.
The Chilliwack Chiefs and the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce partnered up to put on a contactless Christmas drive-thru experience on Dec. 16.
In return for enjoying some festive activities, the Chiefs asked registrants of the event to bring a cash donation to support the efforts of community services.
A social media presence can also be a key contribution, especially without fan interaction due to COVID-19.
This was the case earlier in December when the Salmon Arm Silverbacks helped spread the word about an important cause. The Backs helped 12-year-old Halle Krawczyk’s story go viral so she can get the help that she needs to fight a rare form of cancer.
We're asking all Backs fans, corporate partners, @GoBCHL teams & all communities to help 12-year-old Halle Krawczyk.
Silverbacks ownership has donated $10,000 to help cover Halle's trip to Pittsburgh.
— Salmon Arm Silverbacks (@SASilverbacks) December 9, 2020
Another team using social media to help make the holiday season better for children this year is the Cranbrook Bucks. In a video posted to Cranbrook Dodge’s facebook page, Bucks players can be seen reading bedtime Christmas stories.
These are just a few examples of what BCHL teams do to contribute to their communities around Christmas time, no doubt there are many more.
Year after year, and especially this year, local junior hockey heroes continue to do their part for children and families in need.
Although not every team was specifically mentioned in this article, it does not mean that any of them are not doing their part. Every individual member of each BCHL franchise understands its role in the community, and they all play a part in any way they can.