It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas across the Canadian Hockey League — complete with lip-syncing, future NHL stars sitting on Santa's knee and Cosby sweaters.
The Teddy Bear Toss is a well-known tradition in junior hockey. Fans bring new/gently used stuffed toys which are thrown on the ice after the home team's first goal and are collected to give to the less fortunate. Another variation some teams such as the Western Hockey League's Kootenay Ice uses involves collecting winter hats and gloves.
The Calgary Hitmen have often explored the Saddledome space to set records. Last weekend they collected 21,453 stuffed animals. Instead of leaving it there with spreading holiday cheer, the Hitmen also put a side-splitting lip dub of Brenda Lee's Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree.
The highlights include:
— Defenceman Jaynen Rissling hanging a jockstrap with care between two Christmas stockings.
— Alex Roach's shaving-cream Santa beard as he and Colby Harmsworth say goodbye to their Movember mustaches.
— The Hitmen mascot pretending to play saxophone in various locations including the showers (don't worry, he has a towel on), the hood of the Zamboni and a bathroom stall.
— Use of exercise balls to suggest Christmas bells.
The Calgary-Edmonton hockey rivalry barely needs any stoking. Did the Hitmen top the Edmonton Oil Kings' rendition of All I Want For Christmas from last holiday season? Edmonton supporters might not be able to match Calgary's Teddy Bear Toss. But their team had an intro that included right wing Klarc Wilson doing an intro that included the Carlton Dance.
Of course, teddy bears and music videos are only one tradition. The OHL's Plymouth Whalers evidently started another last summer when 10 players sat with Santa for a photo that
would never have got past the editors at Awkward Family Photos. Based on what friend of BTN Jennifer Kuhn (@jennkuhnS4C) has mined from Instragram and Twitter and sent along, the Whalers started something. Here is the — I use the adjective loosely — a best-of gallery of CHL holiday photos.
Kelowna Rockets forward Myles Bell does the suspenders-over-sweater thing with teammate Tyson Baillie. That brick backdrop looks like something from a Sears portrait studio circa 1986.
Columbus Blue Jackets draft pick Oscar Dansk rocked a cardigan while reading a bedtime story to one of his fellow Erie Otters.
Since Dansk is a native of Stockholm, one wonders if Swedish tea ring is a holiday staple for him. His countryman Nick Sorensen told BTN earlier this season he prefers Swedish meatballs — which you can have any time at IKEA — over one of the country's traditional holiday desserts.
Malcolm Subban, the likely starting goalie for Canada's national junior team, hasn't got in on the action as far as we know. There is a photo circulating that includes a Subban and a Belleville Bulls goalie. Jordan Subban, Bulls backup goalie Charlie Graham and defenceman Stephen Silas paid a visit to mall in the Friendly City.
But don't worry, Team Canada is represented in the gallery. The Niagara IceDogs' Ryan Strome is the leading scorer in major junior, but he's not so big that he cannot sit on Santa's knee.
Teammate Brett Ritchie (down in front) also looks as eager as any child about to open gifts. What really makes it? New York Islanders draft pick Jesse Graham's sweater with the reindeer and snowflake pattern. Come on, wear it, your grandma will be upset if you don't. She worked on it for weeks.
Being a rookie can mean taking one for the team. The Mississauga Steelheads' Bobby MacIntyre was duty-bound to sit on Santa's knee wearing a green shirt that looks like about three sizes too big. It also looks like Steelheads defenceman Stuart Percy is wearing a women's sweater.
The one that really takes the tourtière, though? Detroit Red Wings prospect Ryan Sproul not only found a Ms. Claus dress, but the 6-foot-3 defenceman was able to fit into it. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds teammate David Broll appears to approve.
Two conclusions: hockey players can laugh at themselves and aren't overly burdened with shame. And the way everyone has got in on this shows the CHL is more closely knit than well, a Christmas sweater.
Last but not least, please remember the holidays are a time for giving. Within the CHL, the Vancouver Giants have their annual YouTube challenge. The team will give $10,000 Cdn to two Vancouver-area holiday fundraisers if the video below gets 150,000 views before their Dec. 14 home game.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.