In his 181-game junior hockey career Penticton Vees centre Dakota Boutin is no stranger to the Teddy Bear Toss game.
“This is my fourth year playing junior, so yes, I have been in a few and none of them have been on the losing side,” said Boutin.
That is a good omen for the Vees, who host the big game on Saturday at the South Okanagan Events Centre against the Nanaimo Clippers at 6 p.m.
Even better news for the Vees is that Boutin has pretty much mastered the duck and dive when the teddy bears come raining down to the ice from the stands.
“My last three years I played hockey for the Melfort Mustangs and I scored the Teddy Bear Toss goal all three years, so I have been on the ice for a few,” said Boutin. “Yeah, there is a bit of dodging.”
The centre has collected 12 goals for the Vees so far this season, just behind team leader Owen Sillinger who has 13. With Jonny Tychonick playing with Team Canada West at the World Junior A Challenge and Grant Cruikshank out with a broken ankle, it bumps Boutin as the third most likely suspect to ignite the lamp and crowd first. Defenceman Nicky Leivermann currently sits second overall in points with 27 (seven of those have been goals).
Boutin also has the reputation of scoring big goals behind him, he buried the puck in overtime in his final year of midget at the Telus Cup to win it all.
“I hope it will be me,” said Boutin. “I have a knack for scoring big goals and I take pride in it too.”
If not himself, Boutin suspects the goal will come off the stick of Sillinger.
“We kind of have a thing going, where one of us scores one night and then the other seems to score the next. So my bets are on him or me.”
In his first year with the Vees, Sillinger watched teammate Scott Conway score. Last year it was Chris Klack, who is out with an injury until January this time around. He admitted there are few jabs going around the dressing room about who it might be this year, but was hesitant to pick someone — at least on the record.
“Its going to be very exciting. The teddy bears go towards a good cause and obviously it is fun for the players to be playing in such a fun atmosphere. Scoring the goal to see the teddy bears fly will be exciting for the fans and the players. Every time we play at home the atmosphere is good. Obviously with the Teddy Bear Toss it’s going to be topped up a notch there.”
Despite being caught off guard by Boutin’s three Teddy Bear markers, the Vees’ other centre, Jared Nash, said he also likes his chances going in.
“Last year I played with the Vees and in previous years with my hometown team we had Teddy Bear Toss games, but nothing has compared to Penticton so far. The fans and the amount of people that are here is exciting. I was on the ice in a game back home, not the goalscorer, but I got hit by a lot of teddy bears and all you can do is cover your head while taking it all in,” said Nash.
Bring a stuffed toy, new pyjamas or diapers to toss on the ice for the Vees first goal. Salvation Army volunteers will be on site to collect the tossed items and distribute them to deserving families this holiday season. PetSmart will also be on hand selling their charity bears for $5.50 each or two for $11. Proceeds will go to PetSmart charities.