EDINA - Fifty boys hopped off a coach bus and streamed into the Southdale Center on Friday evening, eager to rush into stores and buy up as many toys as they could.
But the toys weren't for them.
The Niagara Falls, Ontario Knights, a collection of four youth hockey teams from the border city near Buffalo, N.Y., spent a half-hour browsing through Games by James to find toys they could buy and donate to Toys For Tots.
The Knights, who are in town for a tournament in Edina this weekend, wanted to get more out of this thousand-mile road trip than just hockey.
"I have a lot, and everyone here has a lot," said Logan Baillie, the Knights' 14-year-old captain, "but those kids don't. So, it's good to pay it forward."
Helped by a discount from Games by James, the Knights bought hundreds of dollars worth of merchandise to give to those less fortunate.
You may be wondering, though, why a group of kids from Southern Ontario decided to organize a charity toy drive in Minnesota.
The connection? Tom Reid.
Reid is not just a former Minnesota North Stars defenseman— he is also a native of Fort Erie, Ont., a town located right next to Niagara Falls.
And that's how he became close friends with Bubby Stapleton, one of the Knights' coaches who made the trip to the Twin Cities this weekend.
Stapleton used to work for Reid at the Parks and Recreation Department.
"Tom Reid and I go back about 45 years," Stapleton said. "He's just been a great friend."
So when he realized the Knights would be playing a youth hockey tournament in Minnesota during the holiday season, he called up Reid, who then connected him with the Minnesota Wild.
The Wild then provided a coach bus and SUV for transportation to the Southdale Center.
"And 50 kids and eight coaches came to buy toys for kids in Minnesota," Stapleton said.
Most parents gave their kids about $20 to spend on toys.
But the kids didn't stop there.
"They're actually spending more than that with their own money to buy gifts that they would want," Stapleton said. "So kids in Minnesota are going to get something that's really nice."
After buying the toys, the Knights drove to the KARE 11 studios in Golden Valley to drop them off. KARE 11 will be arranging donations to Toys for Tots.