Hitmen's Teddy Bear Toss returns to the Saddledome on Saturday
When the Calgary Hitmen take to the ice on Saturday afternoon against the Lethbridge Hurricanes, more will be on the line than just the final score.
For the first time in 734 days, the Teddy Bear Toss is back.
Fans haven't been able to throw their bears in the air since then because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The team's 2019-20 season was cancelled in March.
Then, last year, WHL teams didn't play in front of fans.
For players like Riley Fiddler-Schultz, the Teddy Bear Toss is a very special game. He says he's had it circled on his calendar for a while/
"It's one that we look forward to. Playing in front of a sold-out Saddledome and getting all the hype around the game and all the energy in the building when we start," the 19-year-old forward said.
"Everyone is always so excited and (there's) a lot of 'oohing' and 'aahing' before the first goal every time there's a play at the net.
"It's obviously a very special game for us and for the city of Calgary as well."
SCORING THE TEDDY BEAR GOAL
Scoring the teddy bear goal is something every player on the Hitmen dreams of.
Sean Tschigerl says if he's lucky enough to score the goal, he'll remember it for the rest of his life.
"I think it would kind of give you a really surreal feeling and what it is to be a pro player with all the cheering," the 18 year old forward said.
"I mean the Teddy Bears raining down on you… that in itself is a pretty good experience.
"That's a goal you'll remember for the rest of your life and, obviously, that's a goal everyone wants to score."
NEED FOR FANS AND COMMUNITY TO STEP UP
The game itself is special, but what's every more important is what happens after.
The teddy bears will be donated to 50 local agencies this holiday season, including the Alberta Children's Hospital, The Calgary Food Bank and Siksika Nation.
This year, there's a need for 20,000 stuffed animals and the Hitmen are calling on fans and the community to step up and help meet those needs.
For 20-year-old forward Cael Zimmerman, the visit to the Alberta Children's Hospital is what it's all about.
"Probably the most special part of it all is when we get to go to the Children's Hospital and deliver those teddy bears," Zimmerman said.
"That's something I'll never forget. You're kind of like the makeshift Santa for the day, I guess, bringing in all the teddy bears… and it was a lot of fun."
Fans are asked to bring new or gently-used small or medium-sized stuffed toys to toss onto to the ice when the Hitmen score their first goal against the Hurricanes on Saturday afternoon.