(This article was originally published on Dec. 14, 2020.)
As if 2020 wasn’t memorable enough, it also marks the first season in a very long time that BC Hockey League teams aren’t able to hold their annual teddy bear toss, which usually benefits the less fortunate in their communities.
It’s an annual tradition for teams and fans to help out local charities with stuffed animals and often, warm winter clothing, for kids and seniors in need in their community.
Let’s have a look at some of the more memorable teddy bear tosses from the recent past.
1. Penticton Vees (2016)
From all of the teddy bear toss videos I could find, this one had the most bears compared to their BCHL counterparts.
Penticton scored at 9:55 of the first period when Chris Klack put a backhand shot over the Powell River Kings goalie Brian Wilson to send the stuffed animals flying. The Penticton Vees teddy bear toss sees all the bears go to the local Salvation Army foundation and includes mittens, toques, and pajamas.
2. Salmon Arm Silverbacks (2019)
The Silverbacks delivered a few hundred bears for the local hospital in 2019 after they were launched onto the ice.
Daniel Rybarik potted a rebound off a point shot from Akito Hirose to beat Trail Smoke Eaters netminder Matteo Paler-Chow to send the fur flying to the ice at the Shaw Centre, with all stuff animals going to Shuswap Lake General Hospital.
3. Vernon Vipers (2015)
Vernon has also delivered with some large teddy bear toss nights.
The one from 2015 was one of the prettiest goals as Latrell Charleson scored on the power play after a fantastic no-look pass in front of the net. Cowichan Valley Capitals goaltender Lane Michasiw had no chance on the play as Charleson put it in the empty cage.
Vernon, alongside Penticton, also donates the toys to the local Salvation Army to be distributed to local families.
4. Alberni Valley Bulldogs (2012)
Alberni Valley is one of the smaller markets in the BCHL but the community came together for this night and delivered with a big teddy bear toss.
Dylan Haugen, a local Port Alberni player, notched the goal off a rebound from Bo Pellah that beat Langley Rivermen netminder James Barr.
The Bulldogs have their players deliver some of the bears to the local hospital for sick kids’ and seniors’ homes for Christmas. The remaining bears are donated to the RCMP, Port Alberni Fire Department, and other first responders via the Port Alberni Toy Run.
5. Vernon Vipers (2019)
Vernon delivered again last season. It was very close to their 2015 in size and the goal was just a pretty as the one by Charleson four years prior.
Matt Kowalksi took a feed from Jojo Tanaka-Campbell and took his speed and went forehand backhand through the five-hole of Wenatchee goalie Daniel Chenard to make it rain inside Kal Tire Centre.
The BCHL and its teams do a fantastic job putting on this annual event for local charities and hospitals. The hope that next season the teddy bear toss in all 18 BCHL communities can come back bigger and better than ever.
It’s unlikely they get to the point of the Western Hockey League in scale with the likes of the Calgary Hitman, Vancouver Giants, Edmonton Oil Kings, and Portland Winterhawks producing thousands of stuffed animals for families in need.
Next season is the first opportunity to see how the expansion Cranbrook Bucks pull off their first BCHL teddy bear toss. As a former WHL market, the East Kootenay city will likely look to make a big impression.
It’s a tough task to pull off a teddy bear toss as big as those in major junior given the differences in market size, but they could get there in some of the bigger BCHL markets like Chilliwack, Penticton, Prince George, Victoria, and Vernon.