Hockey With A Heart

NTDP Players Have Carved Out A Tradition Of Giving Back During The Holidays


The holiday season is a time to celebrate with family and friends and also a time for giving. And no one knows that better than the players at USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program.

USA Hockey’s NTDP is composed of two squads – the U.S. National Under-17 and Under-18 Teams – and being involved in their home community of Plymouth, Mich., is an important part of their development, along with what happens on the ice and at school. 

The annual Teddy Bear Toss is one of the fun ways for both players and fans to put a smile on the face of local youngsters during the holidays. 

Early in December, the U18 team hosts either a USHL or NCAA Division I program at USA Hockey Arena. Fans are asked to bring a teddy bear or a stuffed animal of any kind or are welcomed to buy one inside the rink. After Team USA scores its first goal, stuffed animals can be seen raining down onto the ice. 

The team gets in on the fun and helps collect the stuffed animals and they’re donated to local families for the holidays. 

Even during the 2020-21 season which was affected by COVID-19, creativity shined through to maintain the tradition, and a virtual Teddy Bear Toss was born where patrons could donate $5 for a teddy bear that would be donated.

Along with the Teddy Bear Toss, NTDP players have volunteered their time to be bell ringers on behalf of the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign.

Current NHLers and former NTDP players, like Detroit Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin, and Stanley Cup champion J.T. Compher, are among the many who have given their time and braved the elements to raise money for the good. 

In addition to the work with Salvation Army, members of both teams volunteer their time for Gleaners Community Food Bank to help feed hungry neighbors in the community.

While the holiday season is always a focal time of giving, players at the NTDP are involved in their home community throughout the season, including helping with clean-up at the annual Rotary Club Chicken BBQ during Plymouth’s Fall Festival.

 Events in the community provide players the chance to positively impact their adopted hometown. It’s all part of the NTDP’s mission to help mold the next generation.


Michael Reedy is the 2021-23 Brian Fishman Fellow.


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