Some arrived carrying a stuffed animal as large as they were, some had a single animal tucked under an arm and still others walked into Rabobank Arena on Saturday night with large bags filled with various critters.
It was the 20th annual Condors Teddy Bear Toss Game, where fans are asked to bring stuffed animals into the arena and toss them onto the ice after Bakersfield’s first goal.
As usual, the community responded, with 8,497 fans in attendance to take in the festivities.
Hundreds of fans arrived more than an hour before doors opened but there was plenty to do as a Party on the Plaza, featuring a band singing carols, food, games, Santa and Mrs. Claus, Wise Men, elves and even a snowman and reindeer, was in full force.
Over the past 19 years, fans have tossed more than 121,000 stuffed animals onto the ice surface and those were distributed to children in need as well as first responders.
The earliest goal scored came 33 seconds into the 2013 game but fans on Saturday night had to wait a bit longer. But not as long as in 2011 when the Condors scored their latest goal in TBT history, 12:13 into the third.
On Saturday, the Condors fell behind 5-0 to Tucson before Joe Gambardella came through, scoring 12:26 into the second period to set the fur flying.
“It’s a pretty special feeling,” Gambardella said of scoring the goal and having bears immediately rain down from the stands. “It’s amazing to see.”