The puck came to Hershey Bears winger Riley Barber. He fired it into the Binghamton Devils' net for a power-play goal. Immediately, teddy bears started hitting the ice and continued to fly from fans' hands until a new world record was set.
The Teddy Bear Toss is one of the most heartwarming holiday traditions in minor league hockey: The home team scores its first goal of the game, and thousands of plush toys are hurled from the stands and collected for charities.
Barber's goal wasn't just the catalyst for this year's Teddy Bear Toss for Hershey, the American Hockey League affiliate for the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals. It also sparked the largest shower of stuffed animals in hockey history, as Hershey collected 34,798 toys from the ice midway through the first period Sunday.
The previous world record was set in 2015 by the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League. The previous high for the Hershey Bears was 25,017 collected in 2017.
The teddy bears and stuffed animals are collected and donated to more than 30 local organizations, including schools, food banks, churches and lions clubs. They're also donated to organizations such as Children's Miracle Network and the American Cancer Society.
As is tradition, Bears players jumped into the piles of teddy bears on the ice and posed for photographs in them. The first intermission of the game was moved up because of the volume of teddys, and the teams took a break with 11:45 left in the first period.
Wholly appropriately, the Bears were the big winners that night, defeating the Devils by a 6-3 margin.