Teddy Bear Toss

Condors mascot Colonel Claw'd assists Condors staff and local youth hockey players in picking up all the stuffed animals from the ice during the 2105 Teddy Bear Toss game. 

Rod Thornburg / For The Californian

Some of the best ideas are borrowed, or as Bakersfield Condors President Matthew Riley says, “stolen.”

It’s not that there aren’t any new ideas, but sometimes you see something somewhere you might think will work for you and give it a whirl.

The Condors, Riley admits, have done that with several things over the years and two of the biggest wins in the stolen idea department have been the Teddy Bear Toss game and the Field Trip Day game for schoolchildren.

The Teddy Bear Toss game, always the Saturday after Thanksgiving, is Nov. 25. This year, the Field Trip Day game will be next up, at 10:30 a.m. on Nov. 30.

Riley doesn’t like to use the words “sell out,” but there is a distinct possibility that two events will result in the first ever back-to-back capacity crowds (which now stands at 8,571) at Rabobank Arena. 

It will be the 19th annual Teddy Bear Toss game and the 14th annual Field trip Day game.

“When we started the Teddy Bear Toss game not too many teams were doing it,” Riley said. “Same for the Field Trip Day game. Now you’d be hard pressed to find a team that doesn’t do them.”

The Teddy Bear Toss game was an instant success, luring 7,347 fans who tossed 2,553 stuffed animals on the ice, far more than the Condors were expecting.

“We were not prepared,” Riley said. “It was mass confusion and chaos. We had all those bears and didn’t know how to get them off the ice (quickly) or where to put them. We ended up stuffing them in the visiting team bus (Fresno), there were stuffed animals looking out all the windows, and took them to a facility so we could get the bus back.”

The crowd for the TBT game has twice topped 8,800 (the record is 8,929 in 2008) and the average number of stuffed animals now stands at 6,158 with the record 8,075 in 2009.

The attendance dropped off a bit at last year’s game to 7,855, the lowest since 2003, and Riley and company went to work to get the numbers back up.

This year, the annual Guns and Hoses charity game pitting law enforcement against firefighters will be held on Nov. 25 at 2 p.m. A ticket to that ($23 dollars, call 324-7825) gets one into the Guns and Hoses game as well as the Condors game with $3 going to charity. Former Texas Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis will drop the ceremonial first puck for the Guns and Hoses game.

Plus, the Condors will wear special firefighter-themed jerseys with proceeds from a post-game auction going to the Kern County Burn Survivor Trust, Bakersfield Burn Foundation and Kern County Heavy Rescue. 

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Firefighter Jersey

The Condors will ear special jerseys for the Teddy Bear Toss game on Nov. 25. 

Tickets to the TBT only game also remain, but lower-bowl seats are very limited.

While Riley thinks the attendance will be headed back up, he wants to add some more stuffed animals to the mix as well. To that end, the Condors are asking each fan to bring two stuffed animals to toss onto the ice after Bakersfield’s first goal.

“The more bears, the nicer and the more for the United Way to distribute to the community,” Riley said. “We’re trying to hammer people over the head to bring bears. I’d like to see us reach 10,000 at some point.”

Those attending TBT should not linger. Get to the game early and get through the lines and into the building by 7. Remember, the quickest TBT Condors goal in history came in just 33 seconds into the 2013 game against Stockton while more than 1,000 fans were still outside.

As for the Field Trip Day game, participation from schools rose then dipped several years ago due to budget issues, but have been on the swing the past few years.

“This, for sure, will be our biggest ever,” Riley said. “I think we’re looking at 8,000 kids."

Riley said they have been able to up the number of schoolchildren by offering season-ticket holders, most who can not make the game, a voucher for another game. He also said the team is trying to put all the season ticket holds who can make the game into their own area in a center-ice location.

Those who might want to escape the shrill pitch of thousands of screaming kids can alway escape to the Club Room or head to the new ice-level lounge.

In addition to the local schools participating, schools from Fresno, California City, Frazier Park and Tulare will be bussing in kids. Cost is $10 for a lower-bowl ticket and $6 for upper bowl, which includes a healthy boxed lunch (yes, many kids head right to the concession stands), and an educational booklet tying match, science and geography to hockey.

“It’s a lot of fun for us and the school kids, teachers and chaperones,” Riley said.

Mike Griffith can be reached at 661 395-7390. Follow him on Twitter at @MikeGriffith54. 

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