In the world of sports, throwing things into the field of play is strongly prohibited. Wildcat hockey, however, is hoping fans will break that rule.
Arizona faces Northern Arizona University at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Tucson Convention Center, where the Wildcats will also stage their first “Teddy Bear Toss,” presented by NOVA Home Loans. Fans are encouraged to bring a new, unwrapped teddy bear or stuffed animal to throw onto the ice after the Wildcats’ first goal.
The bears will then be collected and donated to Toys for Tots for use as holiday gifts.
“It’s a hockey tradition that we wanted to bring to Tucson,” head coach Sean Hogan said. “I think it’s something that, hopefully, in my opinion, will take off, once people see it the first time. It’s a lot of fun and it’s for a good cause, Toys for Tots.”
The players are also looking forward to the added involvement from fans they think the toss will inspire.
“I think it’s going to be pretty exciting when we score our first goal, to see hopefully a couple thousand teddy bears tossed down to the ice,” senior forward Brian Slugocki said. “It’ll be fun for the fans and the players as well.”
Junior forward Andrew Murmes recognized a teddy bear toss as a familiar way to excite the fans, after experiencing one in high school.
“It’s really exciting,” Murmes said. “We actually had a lot of teddy bears on the ice. The entire place was filled, which is awesome, so hopefully we get a lot of fans in here throwing a lot of teddy bears.”
Slugocki expects the players to make friendly wagers on who will be the one to score that first goal. He leads the team with 12 goals, while Murmes is the team’s top scorer with 27 points.
Hogan was inspired by the success the Green Bay Gamblers had with their teddy bear toss and a friend of his, John Burkhart, now a scout for the Tampa Bay Lightning, worked for the Gamblers.
“We’re averaging, I think, about 1,500 fans a game, 2,000 fans a game,” Hogan said, “And then for their teddy bear toss — they have a facility like this — they were getting 6,800 people there for the teddy bear toss.”
Hogan said they are hoping for 1,000-1,500 teddy bears.
“To be able to throw anything on the ice is fun,” Hogan said.