It has become an annual tradition over the last 25 years, and it seems to continue to grow every year.

This year, the Western Hockey League’s Edmonton Oil Kings are turning it up a notch with the promotion when they hit the ice against the Kamloops Blazers, who started the tradition, this weekend.

When the Oil Kings take the ice this Saturday, they will be dressed in a special uniform that will fit the occasion. Edmonton’s players will dress the part as they will be wearing teddy bear themed uniforms which include furry-looking socks and a tail on the back of the jersey to complete the ensemble.

Amateur teams to minor pro teams have all joined in the yearly Teddy Bear Toss over the years, but there have not been that many that have got this creative for a special jersey to go along with the special promotion.

You might think that a junior team full of 16 to 21-year olds might think it is silly to wear jerseys like this, but you would be wrong. This promotion is one that hockey players of all ages look forward to.

Oil Kings defenceman Conner McDonald summed it up by saying, “I thought they were cool. They’re definitely not your conventional jerseys. They’re different, they have to have own pizzazz to them. But it’s for the cause. This goes towards a great cause and everyone involved in it. So, when you get to wear a jersey like this, it’s humbling and it’s something that you want to wear.”

Yes, the promotion might delay the game a bit after the goal but with all the stuffed animals being distributed to charities for children in the local communities that might not get something, it is a huge thing. Because of that, every player wants to be the one that sets off the deluge of animals raining down onto the ice.

“As far as who scores the goal, everybody wants to,” McDonald said. “That’s a goal that every junior player wants to score, but as long as we’re getting that first one then it’s good. But most importantly, you don’t want to get shut out,” said McDonald.

“Whoever gets that first goal, it doesn’t really matter as long as we get it,” Trey Fix-Wolansky, who is one of the leading scorers for the Oil Kings, said. “It’s just a really cool experience when you see all of the bears coming down. And also having a full house for the game is super cool too. Hopefully, we can have another sellout this year and get even more bears this year than we have the last two years.”

This past weekend the AHL’s Hershey Bears held their Teddy Bear toss and set a new record with 34,798 toys collected in their game against the Binghamton Devils. The previous record was 28,815 toys collected in 2015 by the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen.

While the record may belong to the pro team in Hershey, Pennsylvania, there is no mistake in saying that the Hitmen want it back. Calgary will get their chance to regain the record on Sunday afternoon when they host Kamloops.

Rob Kerr, the assistant manager of business operations for the Hitmen, congratulated Hershey in taking the record, saying “Any time that you can do something for your community that’s going to benefit so many, regardless of if it’s a world record or not, that’s incredible. I truly hope that they enjoy their one week with the title.”

So, how did the Hershey Bears respond to that? Zack Fisch, a spokesperson for Hershey said, “We know the Hitmen have their game this weekend and ball’s in their court. Obviously, it’s a bigger building and if they do hit it, awesome. We’ll be proud to be the world record holder for a week. It will just have to make us raise our bar even more for a great event next year.”

While there are some friendly competitions among teammates to score the goal and competitions between teams from the various levels to break the record, the real winners are the children in the various communities who will receive a special gift during the holiday season. They may never know where that toy came from, but they will treasure it.

I cannot implore you enough, if you have a junior or minor league team in your area and they are holding a Teddy Bear Toss, go out to the game and take in the spectacle. It is a heartwarming scene to see.

Oh, and getting back to those Oil Kings jerseys, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are fans wanting to get their own, either through an auction or the team selling them.

They are bear-y sweet jerseys.