Usually in the sports world, throwing any item, drink or food onto a field of play results in getting tossed out of the game. However, Arizona hockey invites its fans to break that rule this weekend.
On Friday night, the Wildcats will host their third annual “Teddy Bear Toss,” presented by Nova Home Loans in the Tucson Convention Center when Arizona faces NAU.
During this game, fans are invited to toss unwrapped teddy bears or stuffed animals onto the ice after the Wildcats’ score their first goal. The bears will then be collected and donated to Toys for Tots Foundation for use as holiday gifts.
“We are very excited for the teddy bear game Friday night against NAU,” Arizona hockey head coach Chad Berman said. “What a great way for the fans to get involved by not only cheering for the team, but also by throwing teddy bears that will be donated to children throughout Tucson. I think it’s another great way for everyone in the UA hockey community to all come together for a great cause.”
Three weeks of home games into the season, Wildcat hockey fans have brought in smaller crowds than usual. However, Arizona hockey players believe that with this charity event paired with an in-state Arizona rivalry hockey game, fans will fill up the newly renovated Tucson Convention Center.
“I definitely am looking forward to the energy from the fans,” forward Alex Nespor said. “It’s awesome being able to support a great cause with the help from a bigger crowd.”
Arizona captain Shane Gleason reflected on his favorite moment during the Teddy Bear Toss game.
“My sophomore year was the first year we did the Teddy Bear Toss here, and I was out on the ice when Andrew Murmes scored the first goal a couple minutes into the first period that game,” Gleason said. “Being out on the ice when all those teddies rain down is a pretty exciting feeling, and it shows how much our fans truly support our team and the community.”
Leading Arizona in points is Nespor with 10, Alex O’Dea with nine and Robbie Wilkinson with seven.
“If O’Dea is cleared to play this weekend, I think he will be the first one to score,” UA forward Griffin Dyne said. “He is one of our leading scorers, but he also possesses great hands, speed and has an outstanding ability to read the play on the ice.”
This will be the second time Arizona faces NAU this season. During their 2014-15 season opening game, the Wildcats defeated the Lumberjacks 8-2. During his debut collegiate hockey game, freshman Nespor scored four goals against NAU.
“I think Nespor will make the first goal,” O’Dea said. “He had a good game against NAU, and I expect him to have the same type of performance.”
However, don’t count out the other 26 Wildcat hockey players. Every player on Arizona has tallied up at least one point so far during the season. Mike Adamowicz, Gleason and Kyle Griffin all have six points each. With four to five points each are Dylan Carter, Will Pointon, Alex Vazquez, Jake Campbell and Anthony Rosetta.
“I hope I can be the one to score the first goal on Friday for the Teddy Bear Toss, but we have a bunch of guys capable of scoring each night,” Wilkinson said. “I know guys are going to trying hard to score that first goal so it could be anyone.”
The puck drops Friday at 7:30 p.m..
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