Flying Fur Expected on Friday

The Acadia Grizzly Bears are scheduled to hold their first ever Teddy Bear Toss game on Saturday with all proceeds benefitting the Stollery Children's Hospital.
by Marcel Cormier | February 22, 2024, 1:32 AM ET

It's a annual tradition in many junior, college and minor pro rinks but for the first time in SICHL history, the Acadia Grizzly Bears will hold Teddy Bear Toss night this Saturday when the Edmonton Supersonics are in town. The event will be a massive fund raiser for the Stollery Children's Hospital, one of the top pediatric specific facilities found anywhere in the world, with hopes of raising several hunred thousand dollars in donations and in excess of 30,000 stuffed animals as well. Fans are asked to bring new plush toys, or purchase a popular Grizz mascot toy at Acadia Place, in order to throw onto the ice surface after the first goal is scored by the home team.

"I've played in a number of these games over the years and they are always a lot of fun," said Acadia netminder Tristan Jarry, "Back in junior, the Oil Kings had one of the bigger versions that you could go to and the excitement from the fans could be felt on the ice. Everyone was on the edge of their seat waiting for that first goal to go in."

The Bears are averaging a little under 19K fans per night this season but it's not unrealistic to expect that number to be higher on Friday. All of the stuffed bears will be sent to the Stollery where they will be handed out to the hundreds of kids admitted to the hospital as they undergo and recover from life saving procedures. Not only are the Grizzly Bears collecting toys but the organization is out in force to try and drum up donations as well. Proceeds from the in-house 50/50 draw that night will all be given to the Stollery and throughout the building staff will be on hand to accept donations of cash, credit or cheque. 

The Stollery Children's Hospital is located in Edmonton, Alberta and sees well over 300K patients through it's doors every year. Being located in North-Central Alberta, the Stollery is the nearest hospital of its kind for families in most of western Canada outside of the Vancouver area. Patients from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, northern BC as well as the Yukon and Northwest Territories can be found as patients at any time. No hospital in Canada performs more organ transplants for children than the Stollery.

"The Stollery Children’s Hospital is the only children’s hospital in Canada that is woven through an adult hospital and it’s also the most specialized children’s Hospital in Western Canada," said a hospital representative, "The challenge is that the space no longer matches the growing need of the population that we serve."

You may be wondering why a team based in New Brunswick has chosen a children's hospital in Alberta for this charitable event. Owner, President and General Manager Guy Flaming explains the personal connection that drives this initiative.

"My wife and I know the Stollery from first hand experience," he said. "Our first child was due to be born in August of 1999 but arrived on June 22nd after an emergency cesarean section was performed at another Edmonton hospital. My wife had a rough pregancy and ended up getting pancreatitis which is a major complication. Being nearly two months early, we were told to prepare for the worst and that if she was born alive, we should consider every minute to be a gift because the expected outcome was not positive."

"At 28 weeks, her lungs had barely developed and so the biggest concern was that once she was born she would be unable to breathe and as a result would look very blue," Flaming continued, "To our shock, when she came out, she was as red as a tomato because of that, once I had cut the chord the medical team from the Stollery that was on hand immediately jumped into action. We had maybe a minute together as a family and then it was straight into an incubator for transport across the city to the Stollery. She spent the next 6 months in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) where she underwent a number of critical procedures."

Steroids to help her lungs develop faster, a feeding tube was surgically inserted through the outside to her stomach as she was not capable of nursing and every bit of nutirtion was critical.

"The worst news was that we knew even before she was born that she had an underdevloped heart and even if she survived child birth, she would need major heart surgery," Flaming added, "The easiest way for me to explain it is like this: The heart has four chambers - the first pumps blood to the lungs to get oxygen from where it comes back to the heart into chamber 2, chamber 3 then sends the oxygenated blood to the rest of the body where it will then return into chamber 4 and the process cycles from there. Heart to lungs, back to heart, out to body and back to heart. Her problem is that one of the pumping chambers didn't develop. What they had to do was unplug one of those returning veins straight to the one chamber that works so that instead of a figure 8 path fo blood flow, it's a big circle."

"All of that is scary enough on an adult but here we're talking about my kid that, at the time weighed 3 and a half pounds and could pretty much fit in the palm of my hand," said Flaming, "Her cardiologist that performed the surgery once described the procedure to me as trying to sew two ends of cooked angel hair pasta together. Because she was so little they actually had to do 4 "major" and 3 "minor" cardiac surgeries over the course of the first 3 years of her life which meant we were in and out of the Stollery for a very, very long time."

Thankfully for Flaming and his wife, they lived in the area so could go home at their convenience. With only 28% of Stollery patients considered to be "local", many families are separated while one parent stays and the other has to work, often hundreds of kilometers away. 

"In a lot of ways we're lucky," said Flaming, "We had a lot of support from out families who were all in the area too but we know that just isn't the case for most people. The staff at the Stollery is simply amazing. It's not hyperbole for me to say that they save my kid's life and did so on more than a couple occassions. She's now 24-years-old and doing as well as can be expected considering the original diagnosis was that she was unlikely to survive birth at all."

"I can't think of a cause that is more deserving of my family's support and I am thrilled that we're doing this game on Friday with Edmonton in town."

Bears faithful at Acadia Place will have no trouble finding ways to donate but SICHL fans in general can always explore the myriad of options to get involved by going to the Stollery's website at https://www.stollerykids.com/  and to donate: https://www.stollerykids.com/donate/

Bear Tracks

  • The Bears will wear Stollery themed sweaters on Friday night. Throughout the contest, the game-worn sweaters will be auctioned off via silent auction with the winners being handed their prizes on the ice during a special ceremony. Again, all proceeds will be donated for the cause.
  • Acadia forward Noah Cates has now played his 50th SICHL game and thus official graduates from the 'prospect' list. Ryan Poehling will be the next Bear to do the same as he currently sits at 44 games played. 
  • Spokane Chiefs forward Conner Roulette continues to pile up the points. The 2021 4th round selection now has 80 points after 54 WHL games played. 
  • Speaking of hot, Calum Ritchie has now hit 60 points in only 37 games with the Oshawa Generals. Acadia's 1st pick in the 2023 SICHL Draft, Ritchie has been red-hot after missing the first 6 weeks of the OHL season following shoulder surgery in the summer.  

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