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Hockey Community Gears Up for 9th Annual New York Sash Teddy Bear Toss

Ice skates, sticks, hockey pucks and teddy bears, Utica College Hockey fans are now counting down the hours until Saturday night's big game at the AUD. It’s more than a game, it’s an event.
Ice skates, sticks, hockey pucks and teddy bears, Utica College Hockey fans are now counting down the hours until Saturday night's big game at the AUD. It’s more than a game, it’s an event.
The New York Sash Teddy Bear Toss is less than 24 hours away and excitement is in the air. The U.C. Hockey team, New York Sash representatives and the community say they can't wait to see the furry friends fly through the AUD.
"It's by far our biggest game of the year in terms of fan appreciation and what the fans look forward to, when we release our schedule, 'when's the New York Sash Teddy Bear Toss Game?'" says Gary Heenan, Head Coach of the Utica College Men’s Ice Hockey Team.
"It started back when there was just a few hundred people here at the game and we only raised a few hundred teddy bears and now it's grown into an event that's really unbelievable," says Scot Hayes.
Hayes is the owner of New York Sash. He says the teddy bear toss game has become one of the biggest nights for local hockey but the true meaning of the event is giving back during the holiday season.
"It was always about, what can we do to give back to the community, how can we raise more toys to give to a charity in the area and we wanted to make sure all of those toys stayed local,” said Hayes.
Which is why all of the teddy bears are donated to Operation Sunshine here in Central New York.
"I think it's important for the young fan coming in, it gives an opportunity for mom and dad to say hey, this is why you're throwing the teddy bear on the ice, its Christmas season and you're helping out a kid who's a little less fortunate than you,” said Heenan.
Saturday night's game has sold out for the third year in a row which means all 4,00 seats will be filled and 4,000 teddy bears will be donated.
"The ice is littered, I mean the whole place is covered, covered with teddy bears, we have an army of volunteers it’s my staff, my family, my friends, we're down there we all scurry out with our plastic bags," says Hayes.
The teddy bears are thrown once Utica College scores their first goal, an accomplishment every player strives for.
"Everybody kind of has a little bit of extra jump in the first period because you want to be the one to score the first goal," says Adam Graff, a Senior Center on the hockey team.
And that’s just what he did as a freshman.
"It was insane, I remember actually I was in the slot and the puck just popped on my stick and I put it in and then teddy bears just came raining down, I got hit in the head with a Nemo, I remember that it was big, it hit me right by the bench,” said Graff.
Utica College plays Salve Regina Saturday night. Pre-game starts at 6:30 and puck drop is at 7 pm. You can catch the game on our sister station WPNY.

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