Parker Bowles is the only player in the Tri-City Americans’ dressing room who knows what it feels like to score the teddy bear goal.
Bowles was a rookie when he scored, taking a pass from Brian Williams and tapping the puck into the net against the Seattle Thunderbirds.
“It was really cool,” Bowles said of his 2012 goal.
The Americans host the Everett Silvertips on Friday night at Toyota Center in their 15th annual Teddy Bear Toss game. The Silvertips are 0-3 against the Americans in the fuzziest game of the season.
“With the Teddy Bear Toss, you get a quick start, and everyone wants that goal,” Bowles said. “With the big crowd, it is easy to get up for.”
“It’s a great game,” Americans coach Mike Williamson added. “There is always a lot of energy in the building. We are looking forward to getting the game going.”
Last year’s game brought in a haul of 3,007 furry critters after Richard Nejezchleb scored Tri-City’s first goal. The animals were donated to organizations throughout the Mid-Columbia.
Over the years, more than 25,000 stuffed animals have found their way into the arms of area children.
Among those receiving the animals are Toys for Tots, Victory Outreach, Kennewick School District and Ochoa Middle School in Pasco.
“Most of the kids who get a stuffed animal give it to a younger kid they love,” said Dawn Johnson, who teaches English as a second language and seventh-grade language arts and history at Ochoa. “It is so inspiring. It takes you by surprise.”
At Ochoa, all of the special-needs kids will receive a new friend, and so will Johnson’s students. Others will be distributed through clubs and programs at the school.
“It means a lot more to them to give a gift than to receive one,” Johnson said. “That’s what always overwhelms me.”
There have been 13 teddy bear goal scorers over the years. Former defenseman Clayton Stoner is the only player to score the goal twice (2003, ’04). The fastest goal is 37 seconds by Jordan Cameron in 2001. Logan Stephenson (2005) is the last defenseman to score a teddy bear goal.
For those forgetting their furry friends, there will be teddy bears for sale at the game for $5.
The Americans (11-17-1-0, 23 points) have won two of their past four games, including a 4-1 victory at Everett (15-10-0-2, 32 points) on Dec. 2.
“We have put an emphasis on games leading up to the break,” Williamson said. “They are all against U.S. Division teams, and they know how big the points are. We are desperate for points. We have had a few guys get back in the lineup, and that has helped as well. We played very well in Everett, played well, but not quite good enough in Seattle. We have had a good week off. We are ready for the weekend.”
Tri-City will go forward without Kennewick native Taylor Vickerman, who is out because of an upper-body injury.
General manager Bob Tory said Vickerman, a forward, will be evaluated after Christmas.
“We have been hit hard with injuries,” Williamson said. “Getting Austyn (Playfair, forward) back has helped, (forward Kyle) Olson is close and (defenseman) Brendan O’Reilly will be back after Christmas.”
Also missing for up to nine games will be defenseman Brandon Carlo, who will attend Team USA’s World Junior Championship camp in Boston. He hopes to play in the tournament that begins Dec. 26 in Finland.
“Obviously we will miss him,” Williamson said of the 6-foot-5, 200-pound Carlo. “He is a top player, one of the top defensemen in the league, and he plays a lot for us. We went for a stretch without him. Others are going to have to step up and make sure they play well in his absence.”
Tri-City Americans who scored the teddy bear goal (all in the first period except where specified):
2014 | Richard Nejezchleb (7:31), 4-0 win over Seattle
2013 | Connor Rankin (1:31, 2nd), 5-1 loss to Prince George
2012 | Parker Bowles (12:29), 8-4 loss to Seattle
2011 | Jordan Messier (11:58), 4-3 (SO) win over Everett
2010 | Brendan Shinnimin (1:10), 4-1 win over Seattle
2009 | Brooks Macek (11:57), 5-2 win over Portland
2008 | Mitch Fadden (:58), 4-1 win over Calgary
2007 | Shaun Vey (13:10), 5-2 win over Seattle
2006 | Colton Yellow Horn (11:57), 4-3 win over Spokane
2005 | Logan Stephenson (11:43), 4-0 win over Everett
2004 | Clayton Stoner (10:34, 2nd), 2-2 tie with Kelowna
2003 | Clayton Stoner (1:48), 4-2 win over Everett
2002 | Jake Riddle (4:08, 2nd), 4-3 win over Portland
2001 | Jordan Cameron (:37), 7-4 win over Vancouver