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Teddy Bear Toss Lets Penn State Men’s Hockey Be Part Of Something More Than Sport

Thousands of fans descend on Pegula Ice Arena in Hockey Valley every year to watch Penn State’s hockey teams in action. For one night, though, they bring a fluffy friend.

Penn State men’s hockey hosted its annual Teddy Bear Toss Friday night against Minnesota where fans were invited to bring a teddy bear to throw onto the ice during the first intermission. Every bear thrown was donated to Four Diamonds children currently being treated for pediatric cancer and other underprivileged children in conjunction with THON. In 2022, 1,755 bears were donated during the toss.

The Teddy Bear Toss is a special night for all involved. Players and coaches alike look forward to the event every year as a chance to turn their passion for the game into an opportunity to give back and support THON’s mission to end childhood cancer. 

“I love it. I love the fact that hockey is associated with it,” head coach Guy Gadowsky said postgame. “It’s for a great cause for us specifically at Penn State. It helps THON, and it also helps other charities here locally, which is great.”

This year, the Teddy Bear Toss came during an important matchup for the Nittany Lions. After splitting its last Big Ten series with Michigan, Penn State needed to make an impact against the seventh-ranked Golden Gophers to stay relevant in the early stages of conference play.

Penn State got off to a hot start and kept pressure on Minnesota’s Justen Close before breaking through and taking the lead with just over five minutes gone in the first period. Penn State couldn’t keep up the pressure, and Minnesota scored two straight goals to send the game to the first intermission with Penn State trailing 2-1.

Normally, intermissions are spent in a near trance watching Zamboni drivers resurface the ice and prepare for the next period. On Friday, though, the moments between the first and second periods of action were much bigger than hockey. 

As the players filed out of the rink and into the locker room, a parade of THON families, THON volunteers, and cheerleaders made their way to center ice. Students and fans behind protective netting packed the aisles of an open section in anticipation.

The countdown began, fans were given the signal, and stuffed animals flew from every corner of the arena. It took a few tries, but the Roar Zone even got a few bears over the netting in front of the student section.

Everything from miniature bears to giant dragons found their way to the ice during the toss. The families and volunteers on the ice collected the plush toys and put them into moving bins before leaving the rink, setting the stage for hockey to resume.

It didn’t go well from there. The Nittany Lions couldn’t find any offense in the last two periods and ultimately dropped the first game of the series against the Golden Gophers 4-1. Even though the loss put a significant damper on the atmosphere inside Pegula, the Teddy Bear Toss provided an opportunity for a fanbase to come together in support of a common goal. While players were upset with the loss, they knew they had been a part of something special.

“I think we’re all very fortunate. There’s a lot of passion involved,” defenseman Christian Berger said. “This game is our life. It’s pretty cool to see what the game can give back and to just be a part of it.”

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About the Author

CJ Doebler

CJ is a junior double majoring in broadcast journalism and finance. He is from Northumberland, Pa, just east of State College. CJ is an avid Pittsburgh sports fan, but chooses to ignore the Pirates' existence. For the occasional random retweet and/or bad take, follow @CDoebler on Twitter. All complaints can be sent to [email protected].

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