terry charles | behind the stage | march 2018
I'd say more than 100,000 teddy bears is a pretty good result for what has become perhaps the biggest night of the Green Bay Gamblers hockey season. The Gamblers started a promotion called “Teddy Bear Toss Night" in 2000. During their February 24 game at the Resch Center this year, the team presented its 19th annual toss.
The premise is pretty simple. Fans are asked to bring a new teddy bear to the game. When the Gamblers score their first goal everyone throws the bears on the ice. When the promotion started in 2000, the team collected a little more than 400 teddy bears. The numbers increased each year and in no time we were seeing thousands of bears on the ice. Now we regularly see upwards of 7,000 bears each year and our total is more than 100,000.
I think the event is popular and successful for a few reasons. First of all, it's fun for kids and adults to be able to throw something on the ice and not kicked out! People also feel good because they know the bears will be going to children in a time of need. Lastly, I think the event has just become the place to be. People just want to be a part of a large sold-out crowd having fun with bears. Many bring one bear, some bring one very big bear, and others bring a whole bag.
One of our challenges is getting everyone into their seats for the start of the game in case a goal is scored early. That happened during the 2017 game. Forward Easton Brodzinski scored just 1:40 into the first period. It's a pretty big deal for the player who scores the goal.
“This is a goal that will stay with me the rest of my life. It is truly special," said Brodzinski, who tallied a pair of goals and assisted on the overtime game-winning goal.
I will tell you we much prefer having that goal get scored early. Perhaps the middle of the first period would be ideal. We have had years when it didn't happen until the third period and we had one year where the fans thought a goal was scored, but the ref waived it off. Well, too bad because the bears came raining down anyway.
When the bears are tossed on the ice they are picked up by students from the Preble High School FFA program. Preble has been here helping nearly from the start I think. They're hauled to the back of the Resch Center and sorted into two piles — one for new bears and one for used. We prefer new bears because those can be used by everyone, including the hospital and pediatric clinics. If the bears are used, the hospital can't take them and they instead go to other community organizations.
The Gamblers always do a teddy bear delivery to Aurora BayCare's pediatric clinic on the Monday after the toss and it's a highlight of the season for me. It's very cool to see the kids get a large smile on their faces when they're obviously sick and get to pick out a new bear.
Terry Charles is public relations manager for Green Bay-based PMI Entertainment Group. He's all about media relations, publicity and social media for the Resch Center Complex, Meyer Theatre, Green Bay Gamblers Hockey and other events produced by PMI. When not at work, please don't hit him with your car as he runs and bikes around the Green Bay area. You can follow him on Twitter at @TCCharles.