There are few things in life that would seem to go together less than hockey players and stuffed animals. Therefore, the teddy bear toss event that many minor league teams do is highly entertaining and makes for some great photos. For those not familiar with it, when the home team scores its first goal, the crowd throws teddy bears on the ice which are then donated to charity. Let's get right to the photos of tonight's toss by the Gwinnett Gladiators.
Bears arrive with escorts.
Except these two, who came alone.
A tiger, a bulldog and a giraffe. Not what you'd expect in nature, is it?
Tiger and giraffe got rid of bulldog and seem happier now.
I staked out my position in the northeast photo hole. But I noticed the netting was not very secure above me, which could funnel items onto my head...
A big teddy bear rides shotgun on the Zamboni.
The game begins, and Myles Stoesz fights to stand up for Jamie Milam who was double teamed on a hit moments before.
Brownie, Hoops and Mahrle watch the fight. A little grainy because it was a background, but I love their expressions.
In the second period, the Gladiators finally scored and it rained animals. As soon as the tossing started, sure enough, I felt something hit my head. It was I think a parrot. Also right then, Lou Dickenson, who scored the goal, came to a stop right in front of the photo hole. With no other recourse, I put my hand through the hole and tapped him to move. He looked really surprised that a hand came through the glass. I'll go have a laugh about it with him later, but it wasn't a good time to do it tonight, for reasons we'll cover below. Another animal hit my back in the tossing as well, a bigger one. I was not injured.
Players help organize the loot for pick-up.
A wide variety of species were represented.
Team photographer Dale Zanine came out on the ice to shoot the activities.
Jamie Milam pondered how far he could launch one of the bears with a slapshot.
Tiger and giraffe make it onto the ice and into the cleanup.
And this shot is the funniest at its base, just for the irony. A few moments ago, Stoeszer was pounding a guy's head, and now he's helping pick up teddy bears.
Jeff Mason has bears on a stick to put in the van. Actually, that looks like a cow.
Meanwhile, Pensacola was having an actual team meeting. Something coach John Marks said must have worked, because they went on to win 3-2. 3-2 is also now the Gladiators' record in Teddy Bear Toss nights. A couple years ago they were shut out by Mississippi and fans had to throw the bears at the end of the night. Very embarrassing.
Uh-oh, someone got stuck in the netting.
With some trick photography, we can put the bear onto Cam Ellsworth's head as he leaves the ice.