The San Jose Barracuda fans celebrated the holiday season by raining thousands of new or slightly used teddy bears and stuffed animals on the SAP Center ice as part of a fun tradition for the team.
"Everybody is on their toes waiting for that first goal," SJ Barracuda Radio play-by-play voice Nick Nollenberger said. "But once it starts, it feels like they just keep on coming and coming."
"You kind of get caught up in the game and forget about it, then that first goal is scored and all of the sudden the bears and stuffed animals come raining out of the sky," SJ Barracuda Coach Roy Sommer said. "It's kind of a cool feeling."
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On this night, the Cuda crowd tossed stuffed animals big and small onto the ice following a Noah Gregor goal in the second period.
The thousands of stuffed animals are all part of a tradition in hockey that's more than a quarter-century old.
"It's an opportunity for fans to come and give back to the community," Coach Sommer said. "They get to throw a bear over the glass on the first goal and I've been there when there's more than ten thousand bears raining down. It's kind of a fun time. It means the holidays are near and Christmas is around the corner."
"It was invented back in 1993 by the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League," Nollenberger said. "It's actually funny, Brad Lukowich, former Shark, scored the first teddy bear toss goal ever recorded. It has become a tradition in pro-hockey and the junior ranks as well."
Fans love the opportunity to get themselves in the game by bringing the stuffed animals to the Tank for the big night.
"I just love the fact that all these bears are going to kids that are in hospitals or maybe don't have as many toys as other children do in this community," SJ Barracuda fan Sue Howell said. "I just love giving back to the community in that respect."
"It's like the top-two of the games that we like to go to," SJ Barracuda fan Thomas Van Bevern said. "It's all mayhem. It's almost like a food fight. It's a free for all."
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A fun game to be part of that's will make thousands of children happy across the Bay Area.
"The bears are thrown on the ice and then collected and donated to different organizations throughout the community for youngsters who maybe wouldn't receive a gift during this really crucial time of the year," Nollenberger said. "Probably the funnest side of it is the visual side of it and watching the bears rain down. It's a lot of fun to be a part of. It's cool because it engages the fans, it engages the players, the players help pull some of these massive bears over the glass, and it's a really fun event and something that a lot of people look forward to every year."
The bears go on to benefit children in Santa Clara County at Working Partnerships USA, Family Giving Tree, Bill Wilson Center, Alum Rock Counseling Center, KAFPA and Good Samaritan Hospital.
For more information on the San Jose Barracuda, the AHL affiliate of the San Jose Sharks, visit their website by clicking here.