Pavlo Padakin opened the furry floodgates 13:27 into the first frame of the 18th annual Petro-Canada Teddy Bear Toss en route to a 4-1 win over the Kootenay Ice.
“I saw each of the teddy bear goals on YouTube when the Calgary Hitmen drafted me this year,” expressed Padakin, unable to wipe the wide grin off his face after triggering 21,453 stuffed toys to fall to the ice. “I just never thought I’d score that goal.”
While a few others came close, it would be the Ukrainian import who ‘bear’ied the highly anticipated marker in front of 16,912 eager fans.
“It’s unreal. Before the game, all the guys were thinking about who was going to score the goal. Everybody wants to score this goal,” expressed Padakin, who becomes the first European to score the historical marker since Pavel Brendl in 1999.
The play began as Brady Brassart won the faceoff to the right of Ice goaltender. From there, Brooks Macek scooped up the puck and charged along the sideboards, finding an awaiting Padakin on the doorstep of the blue paint.
The right-winger barely had time to celebrate before the bombardment of bears showered the ice. “I thought it was just a couple of bears, like a lot, but not this much. I was like ‘oh my gosh’ what do I need to do. I can’t skate to the bench because of all of these bears.”
Honourable mentions in the race for the opening goal included Cody Sylvester who hit the goalpost early in the game and Brendan Hurley who was robbed by a diving effort from Ice netminder, Mackenzie Skapski.
Over the past eleven seasons, Calgary now holds an 8-3-0-0 record in the annual event. The afternoon affair was the third of eight meetings between the Hitmen and Ice, with Calgary now leading the series 2-1-0-0, while improving their record to 18-6-1-2.
The fast-paced action of the opening minutes did not diminish following the massive stuffed toy haul. A goalmouth scramble ensued two minutes into the middle frame as towering defenceman, Alex Roach powered his way through traffic and banged it in on the backhand.
With five minutes remaining in the second stanza, Brock Montgomery maintained his series success against Calgary as he tallied his fourth goal in three meetings to draw the visitors within one.
Calgary re-established their two-goal cushion just over a minute into the final 20 minutes as Greg Chase potted his fourth of the season on the powerplay.
“After [the teddy bear goal] we just had to refocus like it’s a new game and come out there and play like we were playing before,” said Chase, expressing the importance of calming down after the teddy bear frenzy.
Nine minutes later, Chase left fans seeing double as he ripped another on the man advantage, boosting the lead to 4-1.
Overall, the Hitmen saw a solid effort on the part of their special teams, allowing only a single powerplay goal against over eight Kootenay attempts.
Chris Driedger made 18 saves in the Hitmen net while Kootenay’s Skapski faced 29 shots in the losing effort.
Since 1999, the Hitmen have donated more than 213,000 bears to the Calgary community.
“Every year it continues to be astounding,” commented Director of Business Operations, Mike Moore. “We never anticipate the level of tremendous support, but fans continue to deliver year-in and year-out. It’s an extraordinary event, we have special fans in a special city that love to give back to the community. We are privileged to do it in this setting.”
Over 50 local agencies have requested bears from the Teddy Bear Toss event including the Alberta Children’s Hospital, Stephen’s Backpacks, Boys and Girls Club of Calgary, YWCA, Red Cross, Salvation Army and Calgary Food Bank.