by Lisa McRitchie on 12/02/12 at 08:43 PM ET
It wasn’t snow or rain that fell from the heavens Sunday afternoon in the Calgary Saddledome. No, it was teddy bears, lots and lots of teddy bears; 21, 453 to be exact. While the toy total pales in comparison to the Hitmen’s 2007 North American record of 26, 919 bears collected, the joy felt by the thousands of children who benefit from this year’s event makes it all worthwhile.
From the initial puck drop, the excitement and desire to score the opening goal was palpable. The smart money was on Cody Sylvester, team captain and leading scorer with 16 on the season going into Sunday’s game, but it was an underdog the lone Ukranian on the team, Pavlo Padakin who would open the game’s scoring.
For first year WHLer Pavlo Padakin, he may score prettier goals yet this year, but this goal may stand as his most memorable. "It was unreal" Padakin recalled as he beamed to his largest post game media scrum, ever. "Before the game, the guys were like ‘I think I’ll score the goal.’ Everyone wants to score this goal because it’s really nice to score. I was thinking ‘oh yeah, I’ll score.’ But I didn’t believe it, but when I scored it was unbelievable. I feel really good."
After being selected by the Hitmen in the CHL expansion draft this past summer, Padakin did his homework on the Hitmen the way that any of us nowadays would; he took to the internet. "I saw [the teddy bear toss] on YouTube when the Calgary Hitmen selected me. I thought it was nice, but I didn’t think that I would score this goal."
While anyone could have scored the infamous goal Padakin laughed saying that his team "Can’t believe that a Ukranian guy, first year who played in dub scored this goal. It was pretty good."
It was pretty good, and it might have been good enough to warrant a teddy bear or two for Christmas, maybe even one from Santa. But most likely from his family, all of whom were watching online and quick to text "Good job Pav."
Padakin becomes the first European player to score the teddy bear goal since Pavel Brendl in 1999 adding even more excitement for the 16, 912 fans in attendance, and even the pressbox full of media members taking part in the goal pool; no, I was not the winner this year.
It took 6 pickup trucks, a minivan, countless volunteers and approximately 29 minutes to collect the furry friends thrown to the ice. The items will be donated to more than 50 Calgary organizations that have requested donations including the Alberta Children's Hospital where members of the Hitmen will personally deliver gifts Monday.
Hitmen head coach Mike Williamson was pleased with his team's efforts and while the team doesn't have an award per se for the goal scorer, "There’s a lot of bragging rights that go along with it, but what I like tonight was that I didn’t think that there were any selfish plays in the first up until that goal.
"You see some guys trying to do a little bit too much trying to get that goal themselves. And tonight there was a few times where we passed up some shots in the first period that we should have shot the puck trying to set someone else up. I really like that; it shows a team first attitude."
But talking to the players following the game there were a few like Greg Chase who would have loved to have score the goal, and they'll even tell you just that. Last year's goal scorer was Chase. He smiled recalling the goal saying "Last year I wasn’t expecting to score the goal, this time I wanted to score the goal."
While Chase didn't get to score for the Hitmen, he does have the opportunity to make things interesting for his home town team, the Edmonton Oil Kings Friday night; interesting if the Hitmen can keep the Oil Kings from scoring that all important goal through the entirety of the game. But given the Oil Kings' scoring talent, one can hope that that won't happen, and that the Edmonton fans will be able to celebrate an early first period goal against their provincial rivals.
Since the inaugural Teddy Bear Toss game in 1999, the team has donated more than 213, 000 bears to the Calgary community. Of course this wouldn't be possible without the fans, especially when there are those who bring the bears by the bushel, one fan this year brought a whopping 38 bears. But every item is important, every dontation makes a difference.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
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