Tri-City Americans to host 21st annual Teddy Bear Toss game this Saturday

by Annie Fowler

KENNEWICK — There’s nothing better than putting the puck in the net and watching a shower of stuffed animals fly from the stands.

Tri-City Americans defenseman Alex Serraglio experienced that first-hand last season when he scored the team’s first goal to bring down 2,787 furry friends that found their way into the arms of area children.

“Just seeing the reaction of the crowd is special,” said Serraglio, who was the fifth Tri-City defenseman to score the coveted goal. “Watching them struggle to get the big bear over the glass is fun. It makes the whole game.”

On Dec. 10, the Americans will put on their Santa hats against Prince George at Toyota Center for their 21st annual Teddy Bear Toss game. Over the years, the Americans are 14-5, with one tie, in their teddy bear games.

After the game, the stuffed animals will be distributed to Mid-Columbia charities.

Serraglio said he didn’t know he had scored the goal last year.

“I thought Greener (Tyson Greenway) scored,” he said. “Everyone came off the bench, it was pretty cool. I was fortunate for that to happen. It’s a ton of fun and a lot of anticipation. The crowd is waiting to explode and throw the bears on the ice.”

The Americans began their stuffed animal adventure Nov. 29, when players picked up a generous donation of 1,500 stuffed animals from the Kennewick PetSmart.

“We’re not just a hockey team, but part of the community,” Tri-City General Manager Bob Tory said. “The game is quite a lot of fun. It’s a fun night. It’s much more than hockey. To give back to the community and underprivileged children, we couldn’t do it without the help of PetSmart.”

PetSmart manager Kenny Dodd said the donation wouldn’t be possible without the community.

“They are purchased at the register and $1 from each one goes to PetSmart charities,” Dodd said. “In 2021, PetSmart gave $18 million to help the homeless with their pets. Our partnership with Feed America helps people who struggle to feed themselves and their pets.”

Americans players Parker Bell, Tyson Greenway, Alex Serraglio, and Marc Lajoie pick up 1,500 stuffed toys donated by the Kennewick PetSmart.

Teddy bear history

The Americans first began throwing teddy bears on the ice during their first season in 1988-89, but it was more than once a year. It started as a toy trick, where the fans would throw toys on the ice when someone got a hat trick. But with hat tricks hard to come by, they needed a new game plan.

After a few games, the Americans organization took their idea to the Western Hockey League office. After that, the event was scaled back to a few games a year. Now, the team does it once a year during the holiday season.

The Americans may have started the craze with their toys for hat tricks, but the Kamloops Blazers were the first to have just one night set aside for a teddy bear toss for charity, starting in the early 1990s.

Former defenseman Clayton Stoner is the only Tri-City player to score the teddy bear goal twice (2003-04).

The fastest goal was 36 seconds by Tyler Sandhu in 2016.

Over the years, more than 38,000 stuffed animals have found their way into the arms of area children.

For those forgetting their stuffed animals, a variety of teddy bears will be for sale at the game. Each purchase will see $1 go to the players’ education fund.

In 2019, hockey fans were generous with a record 4,920 stuffed animals.

“Let’s go for 5,000 and set another record,” Tory said. “It’s a fun night with Christmas spirit.”

BEARRY GOOD Tri-City Americans who scored the teddy bear goal (all in the first period except where specified):

2021 | Alex Serraglio (4:33, 2nd), 4-1 win over Prince George

2020 | No game because of COVID pandemic

2019 | Krystof Hrabik (11:55, 2nd), 8-1 loss to Portland

2018 | Kyle Olson (1:39, 2nd), 8-7 OT win over Lethbridge

2017 | Dylan Coghlan (12:47, 3rd), 5-1 loss to Seattle

2016 | Tyler Sandhu (:36), 4-3 win over Victoria

2015 | Juuso Välimäki (2:07), 3-2 loss to Everett

2014 | Richard Nejezchleb (7:31), 4-0 win over Seattle

2013 | Connor Rankin (1:31, 2nd), 5-1 loss to Prince George

2012 | Parker Bowles (12:29), 8-4 loss to Seattle

2011 | Jordan Messier (11:58), 4-3 (SO) win over Everett

2010 | Brendan Shinnimin (1:10), 4-1 win over Seattle

2009 | Brooks Macek (11:57), 5-2 win over Portland

2008 | Mitch Fadden (:58), 4-1 win over Calgary

2007 | Shaun Vey (13:10), 5-2 win over Seattle

2006 | Colton Yellow Horn (11:57), 4-3 win over Spokane

2005 | Logan Stephenson (11:43), 4-0 win over Everett

2004 | Clayton Stoner (10:34, 2nd), 2-2 tie with Kelowna

2003 | Clayton Stoner (1:48), 4-2 win over Everett

2002 | Jake Riddle (4:08, 2nd), 4-3 win over Portland

2001 | Jordan Cameron (:37), 7-4 win over Vancouver

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