Rebels captain Jayden Grubbe has been involved in many teddy bear toss games throughout his life.
It’s a junior hockey Christmas tradition and Grubbe has been there as a player and a fan.
No matter the circumstances one thing remains the same, it never seems to get old.
“It’s pretty fun,” Grubbe said. “Usually there’s a good crowd and a great atmosphere so everyone gets a little bit more excited for it.”
The Calgary native grew up going to Calgary Hitmen games, which also happens to be the epicenter of the teddy bear toss experience. This season the Hitmen accumulated 20,294 teddy bears for kids in the community.
As a youngster, Grubbe headed to the home of the Hitmen, the Scotiabank Saddledome to take part in the special game as a fan.
“I think I was at one or two of them so it was kind of cool to end up going there when you’re older,” he said.
All those years later in his rookie season in the Western Hockey League in 2019 as a member of the Rebels Grubbe returned to the Saddledome as a player. Hitmen forward Carson Focht tipped a shot out front from former Red Deer Rebels defenceman Jackson Van de Leest a minute and a half into the game.
“That was pretty cool. The first year that I went there was quite a few people there it looked like it was almost sold out. It took quite a while for it to get cleaned up there so it was a cool experience going there as a kid and then playing in it,” he added.
The Rebels are coming off a dominant 5-2 win against the Medicine Hat Tigers which snapped a two-game losing streak. Grubbe said it was a great bounce-back game and they got back to playing their brand of hockey.
“Anytime you go a weekend like we had last weekend you want to have a good bounce-back game. We’ve got a couple of games left before Christmas and we want to have a good finish before the new year. That’s our goal,” he added.
Last year the Rebels hosted the Moose Jaw Warriors on Toque and Teddy Bear Toss night and got shut out on home ice. As the Warriors scored the final goal of the game the fans in attendance began throwing items on the ice before the Rebels scored their first goal.
This time around the Rebels anticipates approximately 5,000 people will be in attendance at the Peavey Mart Centrium on Friday night as they host the Edmonton Oil Kings for the annual Toque and Teddy Bear Toss at 7 p.m. Red Deer was the first team to move to a teddy bear/toque toss format rather than strictly just teddy bears roughly 15 years ago.
Since then the team has collected hundreds of thousands of items for the Red Deer Christmas Bureau to help local families.
The Rebels ask those in attendance to put the items such as teddy bears, toques, mitts, and scarves into a plastic bag before launching them onto the ice.
President of the Red Deer Christmas Bureau Theresa Kutynec said the items collected at the game allow them to keep their clients warm throughout the winter.
“We always look forward to this because the mitts and toques we collect there are what get our clients through the whole year,” she said. “We almost collect enough for all of our clients.”
This season the volunteer-based organization will help approximately 850 children and will have over 1,000 applications.
“We’ve had a lot of new Canadians. Like the Ukrainian immigrants come to apply because they’re coming with nothing,” she added.
They also take monetary donations and will accept cash at the Rebels game which will be used primarily to buy presents for kids.