A big crowd was on hand at the Saddledome Saturday afternoon for one of the biggest games in any Calgary Hitmen season.
It was the annual teddy bear toss.
“It’s pretty special, every year,” Hitmen player Jake Bean said.
“It’s kind of a surreal moment for all the guys on the ice. It’s awesome and it’s a great thing for all the families to come out and it makes it even better that it’s for a good cause,” Bean added.
It takes a Hitmen goal to launch the bears and this year it was captain Micheal Zipp, who got his team on the scoreboard with just seconds left in the first period.
“I think every bear has got a make a day and smile for someone so, whenever we can do that, it’s pretty special for us to go around and give these bears out to someone who needs them – it’s pretty awesome for us,” Zipp said.
Zipp and many of his teammates got up bright and early on Monday to hand out teddy bears to 60 local agencies that support children.
“They love them,” said Crystal Lachance of Pacekids, an agency that helps kids with special needs.
“It’s a little thing that comes to them and their eyes glisten and glow and they’re so happy – we’re really fortunate and we appreciate it, for sure.”
And there were plenty to go around. This year’s tally: 23,924 teddie bears – more bears than fans in attendance.
Then, it was off to the Alberta Children’s Hospital to deliver 350 bears to kids who could use a little joy in their lives.
For the players, the payoff is the smiles they get for every teddy bear handed out.
“It’s great being able to just make a kid’s day by giving them a teddy bear and maybe that teddy bear will last a lifetime,” said Hitmen player Jacob Lapointe.