By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – With any luck the ice surface at the McIntyre Arena will be littered with hundreds — if not thousands — of teddy bears and stuffed animals after the Timmins Rock score their first goal Wednesday night.
While fans are normally discouraged from tossing stuff onto the ice surface during NOJHL games — even hats after a player nets his third goal of a game — those in attendance will be encouraged to do so Wednesday night in support of a good cause.
All of the teddy bears and stuffed animals will be collected by Rock players and gathered up for delivery to NEOFACS (North Eastern Ontario Family and Children’s Services) on Thursday.
Kevin Peever, a member of the Rock’s board of directors, didn’t get a chance to see the teddy bear toss highlighted on Don Cherry’s segment during this past Saturday’s broadcast of Hockey Night in Canada, but he is aware there have been some massive numbers of bears tossed during games in western Canada.
“I have seen some YouTube videos regarding the teddy bear toss, especially the one in Edmonton where they had roughly 20,000 teddy bears thrown on the ice,” he said.
“I don’t think it is realistic for us to expect to get that many Wednesday night, but it would be nice to get several thousand out here on the ice to help out NEOFACS and children in need.”
Peever is confident that if the teddy bear toss during Wednesday night’s game between the Rock and the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners proves to be successful it will become an annual event.
“We are hoping that Timmins starts to own this team,” he said.
“We have been trying to get more involved in the community through events like the Lions telethon, the Daystar Hockey Clinic and some other programs.”
It is safe to say the the Rock players are excited about the opportunity to help out area youngsters, as well.
“They are always excited and more than willing to help out with events in the community, regardless of whether we ask them to go to Dailey’s Your Independent Grocer to bag groceries (for the Ton in a Tundra event), or to help out at the Daystar Hockey Clinic,” Peever said.
Defenceman Joe Olson — one of three former Ridge Meadows Flames on the Rock roster — has had experience playing in a teddy bear toss game.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Olson said.
“Kids come out and it is for a good cause. They really get involved in the game. It is a really good time.
“I think we collected about 50 or 60 teddy bears. It was a really good night.”
Olson’s current and former teammate, Jordan Rendle, netted the first goal of that Flammes game and the defenceman figures he might be able to net the goal that unleashes the teddy bears Wednesday night, as well.
“Absolutely,” he said.
“We are hoping he gets one 15 seconds into the first period. That’s kind of the plan.”
Given that he scored the game’s first goal 16 seconds into Saturday night’s 5-2 loss to the Cochrane Crunch, we wouldn’t want to bet against it.
Olson would like to see that first goal scored early, so the team can focus on picking up a big win against a division rival.
“I don’t think it is really a huge worry,” he said.
“We are going to get our chances and hopefully we can capitalize on them.”
In addition to seeing who can score the goal that unleashes the bears, Olson admits there might be a little competition to see who can gather up the most bears.
“We are just going to want to make sure we gather them up as fast as possible,” he said.
“We don’t want to be waiting around a long time.”
The folks over at NEOFACS are pleased to have the Rock working with them to help brighten the lives of so many youngsters during the Christmas season.
“The teddy bears the Timmins Rock are going to provide us from their teddy bear toss is going to go a really long way to helping us fill the Christmas wishes for our kids,” said Brooke Ballantyne, NEOFACS’ communications co-ordiantor.
“We have close to 600 names this year who we need to provide Christmas gifts for, so I am sure you can imagine the impact this teddy bear toss is going to have on us being able to make sure everybody has something to open for Christmas.”
The news that the Rock were going to have a teddy bear toss for their benefit is welcome news, to say the least.
“It is a wonderful surprise,” Ballantyne said.
“The Rock have really been fabulous and they have supported us for past events that we hold throughout the year. We have been able to work with them in the past, but we had no idea they were considering doing this.
“The timing is absolutely perfect because we are getting close to the end of our campaign and we are still working very hard and diligently to fill all these wishes.”
The NEOFACS has been doing quite well, so far.
“Every year we are amazed and surprised at the generosity of our communities,” Ballantyne said.
“This year is no different. We have had so many wonderful sponsors step forward. Different community partners have done toy drives for us. The Daily Press has also done a teddy bear drive for us. So this is just wonderful.
“As I have said, we are always surprised by the generosity and being able to fill 600 wishes every year is amazing.”
Even Wednesday night’s opponents, the Gold Miners, have done their part, holding a toy drive during one of their home games to boost the NEOFACS campaign.
The organization serves an area that reaches as far south as North Cobalt, all the way north to Hearst.
NEOFACS officials will begin delivering the gifts to the area youngsters shortly after the bears at delivered to the agency on Thursday.
“We have gift bags waiting for the teddy bears,” Ballantyne said.
“As soon as they go in, they are going to start going out immediately. We have a couple of elves and volunteer helpers who have been organizing the gifts.”
Wednesday’s game is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m.