Remember the day that social media feeds are filled with images and videos of thousands of teddy bears flying onto the playing surfaces of Canadian junior hockey rinks throughout the country? Well that day, unfortunately, will not come for those in Manitoba – or any part of western Canada for that matter – during the 2020 calendar year.
With the COVID-19 pandemic wiping out the first half of the Western Hockey League schedule, players are set to begin returning to their WHL host cities in December to begin on/off-ice training in preparation for a January 2021 season start.
The Junior ‘A’ league within the province did attempt to begin its 2020-21 season on a more typical fall date. However, with rising case numbers and hefty restrictions/protocols in place from governing bodies, the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s season – much like that of all hockey within Manitoba – was put on pause, and is also scheduled to return in the new year.
In lieu of this, 50 Below Sports + Entertainment, the owner of the newly-relocated Winnipeg ICE WHL team as well as the MJHL’s Winnipeg Blues and Winnipeg Freeze has announced that its clubs are participating in a ‘virtual teddy bear toss’ over the next two weeks until December 11.
“Join us in giving to children facing tough circumstances right now,” said rookie Freeze defenceman Brandt Young in a video posted to the team’s Twitter page. “Although there can be no physical teddy bears this year, you can still support. For every 20 dollars donated, a comfort item will be donated to a sick child at the Children’s Hospital. You have until December 11 to donate. Thank you for your support.”
In teaming up with the Children’s Hospital of Manitoba, monetary donations will be collected as opposed to physical stuffed animals, with all proceeds going towards the purchases of plush toys, teddy bears, books, movies, blankets, and other assorted toys for children within the hospital. Those donating to the cause will be eligible for a tax receipt. To donate, click here.
“We are grateful to the Winnipeg ICE, Blues and Freeze for their creative effort to find a way to help children in need of joy and happiness during these unprecedented times.” Children’s Hospital Found of Manitoba’s president and CEO Stefano Grande said in a team-issued statement. “The Teddy Bear toss was a huge success last year because of the supportive Winnipeg ICE fans and we are excited to bring this to life again this year and continue the annual event virtually.”