Another special night at the Hershey Bears’ “Teddy Bear Toss”

Drue Cappawana, Opinion Editor

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The Hershey Bears’ game against the Binghamton Devils on Sunday night saw the annual ‘Teddy Bear Toss,’ where fans throw as many teddy bears as they can onto the ice following the Bears’ first goal of the game. The Bears have consistently had a high turnout for this event, with over 20,000 bears thrown each year since the early 2010s.

The goal for this year was simple: beat last year’s turnout of 25,017 and beat the world record of 28,815 set by the Calgary Hitmen, a junior team from Alberta, Canada.

The Devils opened the scoring nine minutes into the first frame in a game where the Bears started slow and had fans anxious over when – if ever – the Bears were going to score the goal to bring on the onslaught of teddy bears from the over 10,000 fans in attendance. Then, Devils’ forward Blake Speers took a penalty which put the Bears on the powerplay.

Cue Riley Barber.

A shot from centre Mike Sgarbossa from the blue line rang off the crossbar behind Devils’ goaltender Cam Johnson, bringing a shout of angst from the crowd. Then, as if by divine intervention, the puck found the stick of Riley Barber in the right faceoff circle who, without fail, launched the puck over Johnson and into the top of the net.

Ten thousand Bears’ faithful roared in approval, and onto the ice came the endless wave of teddy bears. For a half hour, teddy bears poured onto the ice and were collected by the volunteers from various community organisations, including Capital City Vipers, until the Bears took an early first intermission to clean the ice.

The game continued as Bears fans hypothesized the total count of bears on the ice (minus the six allowed at a time, of course). Then, about halfway through the third frame, the PA announcer came on and simply said: “the count is in.” Fans waited a few seconds as the number faded onto the screen. The fans were shocked to find that not only did the Bears beat their previous year’s turnout, but they absolutely shattered the Calgary Hitmen’s world record.

The Bears collected in total 34,798 total bears, breaking the world record by nearly 6,000 bears. All 34,798 bears collected at Sunday night’s game will be donated to various charities and organisations in the Central Pennsylvania region, including the Hershey Medical Center and the American Cancer Society.

Appropriately, the Hershey Bears took the game by a wide margin, as well, defeating the Devils by a final score of 6-3 thanks to two goals from fan-favorite Liam O’Brien and a stellar performance in goal by Vitek Vanecek.