Hershey Bears 2024 Teddy Bear Toss Sets New Franchise Record
Plush Pandemonium in Hershey, PA
Sweet, Cuddly Mayhem Delights Once Again
Thanks to the generosity of the best fans in the American Hockey League (AHL), the Hershey Bears have once again established a new record in one of the most iconic sports events! The Hershey Bears, the oldest and most decorated team in the AHL, collected 74,599 teddy bears and stuffed animals during the GIANT Teddy Bear Toss on Sunday, January 7, 2024, to surpass the club's previous record of 67,309 collected in 2023.
The world-famous event, held during Sunday's game versus the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, traditionally sees fans throw stuffed animals onto the ice following Hershey’s first goal of the game, which came in the second period. The goal, scored by Bogdan Trineyev, ignited the GIANT Teddy Bear Toss, in which fans sent a cascade of cute, cuddly critters onto the ice.
“It was a very cool vantage point,” said Bears defenseman Chase Priskie, who assisted on both the goal that launched a flurry of fur, as well as teammate Alex Limoges' game-winning tally in overtime. "Coming into tonight's game, I think everyone was pretty excited […] a lot of people wanted that first goal and we're just taking care of business as usual. [The play came on a] neutral zone regroup, Bogdan was able to find a nice little hole in their defense - Hardy Häman Aktell makes a great play to him through [Lehigh Valley's] coverage, [Trineyev's] able to get the initial shot and collect his own rebound, and then fire it back on net and beats [Phantoms netminder Cal Petersen] low, and then the teddy bears rained, and it was awesome.
“You see our arena tonight, you see every seat in the stands absolutely full, you see the teddy bears waiting to be thrown - so there's a lot of excitement to score that goal. And for us, it's a well-talked-about event; you don't really know what to expect until you're in that moment. And then when you're in it, it's one of the cooler moments in pro hockey that I've been a part of.”
On the expectations of the GIANT Teddy Bear Toss:
“… you don't really know what to expect until you're in that moment. And then when you're in it, it's one of the cooler moments in pro hockey that I've been a part of.”
Following the goal, Bears players, along with dozens of volunteers took to the ice to assist in the collection of the stuffed animals, including team members from Hershey Entertainment & Resorts (HE&R), Children's Miracle Network Hershey (CMN), and Hershey Junior Bears. Once collected from the ice, more than 130 volunteers counted and bagged the stuffed toys.
As the teddy bears descended to the ice, forming massive piles, several Bears players were more than happy to dive into those plush piles, much to the delight of the standing-room-only crowd of 10,765.
“Every season, I would see [the Teddy Bear Toss] on social media, growing up around this area,” said Bears forward Alex Limoges, a Virginia native who attended Bears games in his youth and is now skating in his first season for the Chocolate and White. "It was always talked about when it was happening, and it's just kind of like, 'Oh, look at how many bears they got this year! Oh wait, they beat the record! They beat it again and again.' So, it was definitely something I was looking forward to. No words, really - I haven't been a part of that in a while, especially something of that magnitude, that was a lot of fun.
"The last time I was a part of [a Teddy Bear Toss], there weren't enough bears to really jump into the pile. But this year, I jumped in one or two times, and it was like jumping on a cloud. It was nice. And then I laid there, and I think people definitely aimed for you, so I took a couple in the face, but they're bears. It didn't hurt too bad, rather than punches."
Since Hershey began hosting the GIANT Teddy Bear Toss in 2001, the Bears have collected and distributed 464,107 teddy bears to children throughout Central Pennsylvania and surrounding areas.
On the experience of jumping into piles of teddy bears:
“The last time I was a part of [a Teddy Bear Toss], there weren't enough bears to really jump into the pile. But this year, I jumped in one or two times and it was like jumping on a cloud. It was nice. And then I laid there and I think people definitely aimed for you, so I took a couple in the face, but they're bears. It didn't hurt too bad, rather than punches.”
Hershey Bears Cares
As part of the club's Hershey Bears Cares initiative, which showcases the philanthropic activities and volunteer efforts of Bears players and staff members throughout the community, the collected teddy bears and stuffed animals were donated on Monday to more than 35 local organizations, including Harrisburg School District, Cocoa Packs, Hershey Food Bank, Helping the Harrisburg Family, Palmyra Lions Club and Autism Society Greater Harrisburg Area. Members of HE&R's Young Professionals Employee Resource Group were on hand to help distribute the stuffed toys to community recipients.
On Tuesday, several Hershey Bears players visited Catherine Hershey Schools, Milton Hershey School (MHS) and Vista Autism Services to distribute the plush toys to their new owners. At MHS, the elementary division was treated to an all-school assembly and had the opportunity to ask the players questions and hear about their ‘breakthrough’ moments throughout their careers.
HE&R and the Hershey Bears hockey club thank the GIANT Company and the best fans in the AHL for their unwavering support of our communities and for putting thousands of smiles on the faces of local children!
For 86 years, our Hershey Bears hockey club has been thrilling fans on the ice. Off the ice, this storied American Hockey League team has prioritized giving back to the community and connecting with fans. Since 2018, the Hershey Bears Cares charitable initiative has been the platform to highlight the organization's community outreach and engagement. In a typical season, our players, coaches and staff members participate in dozens of meaningful events and appearances. It is a way for the team to thank the best fans in the league and give back to the community.