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Sports >  Spokane Chiefs

‘That game that everyone wants to come to’: Teddy Bear Toss 2022 erupts in playful mayhem after fans mistakenly see first goal

Dec. 3, 2022 Updated Sat., Dec. 3, 2022 at 10:19 p.m.

By Nina Culver For The Spokesman-Review

In an unusual twist of events during the Spokane Chiefs annual Teddy Bear Toss Saturday, fans jumped the gun and started tossing the stuffed animals before the Chiefs scored.

The tradition is that the bears are thrown on the ice after the Chiefs score their first goal, but in the confusion of an attempted goal that saw players sliding on the ice and the net tossed aside, it appeared to some fans that a goal had been made. And once the tossing began, it couldn’t be stopped.

Students from East Valley, Freeman and Mt. Spokane high schools quickly scooped up the treasure trove of stuffed animals and put them in pickup trucks to be counted, bagged and delivered to the Christmas Bureau.

Each year, thousands of stuffed animals end up going home to children who receive toys and books from the Christmas Bureau, which is a joint effort with The Spokesman-Review, Catholic Charities and Volunteers of America.

The record, set in 2019, is 8,604. Officials counted 6,825 stuffed animals on Saturday.

The toss is eagerly anticipated. Before the game began, cameras panning the crowd showed people, many of them children, proudly holding up their stuffed creations that ranged from bears to moose to a large stuffed hamburger.

Justin Krautkraemer has been coming to the Chiefs’ Teddy Bear Toss night for decades, but he’s never been able to throw a bear on the ice.

“I was Boomer for 22 years,” he said, referring to the hockey team’s mascot.

But that has never dampened his enthusiasm for the Teddy Bear Toss. Every year, he would spend all year collecting bears and other stuffed animals for the toss, then have friends and family members toss them onto the ice while he wore the Boomer uniform. He was often on the ice as the bears fell.

“It’s a sight to see,” he said.

Though Krautkraemer is now retired and someone else is wearing the Boomer uniform, he was still working Saturday night. He took a job with the off-ice officials. While the new job allows him to still come to all the games, it also prevents him from tossing bears onto the ice.

“I still can’t today,” he said. “Upstairs, we’re not allowed to throw stuff out the window.”

But he did his part, filling two garbage bags full of stuffed animals for his friends to throw.

“It’s just a unique experience,” he said of the Teddy Bear Toss. “It’s that game that everyone wants to come to. It’s a good cause.”

Laura Armstrong and son Lucas were there Saturday with extended family to celebrate Lucas’ ninth birthday.

“This is the first time we’ve been to the Teddy Bear Toss,” Laura Armstrong said. “We just thought it would be a great time to celebrate his birthday and give back to those less fortunate.”

A family member holds Chiefs season tickets, so the Armstrongs knew to bring stuffed animals to throw. Laura Armstrong said she wasn’t sure she had a good enough arm to make sure hers got to the ice, but she said she was confident that someone would help boost it to the ice if it fell short.

“Who doesn’t love the thought of throwing teddy bears on the ice?” she said.


New donations of $2,590 have brought the year-to-date total collected for the Christmas Bureau to $84,305.18.

Tom and Mary Fleming, of Spokane, donated $1,000. “May God bless you for the good you do,” they wrote. Dave Larsen, of Spokane, donated $500.

Ron Loomis, of Colbert, gave $275. John Barber, of Spokane, sent $250. Tim Bristow, of Spokane, donated $245. An anonymous Cheney donor sent $200.

Rhon and Dee Holm, of Colbert, gave $100. “We hope this helps in making someone’s Christmas a little brighter,” they wrote.

An anonymous Spokane Valley donor gave $20.

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