Many NHL teams have iconic fan traditions and the Florida Panthers are no exception. What are they known for? Throwing fake rats on the ice.
If you’re a Florida Panthers fan, then you may have seen fans of the team throw toy rats onto the ice. And if you’ve gone to a game, chances are, you’ve even taken part in the tradition. But you may not know the reason why fans engage in such a practice.
It started before the home opener of the 1995-96 season. A rat ran into the Panthers locker room, at Miami Arena. The rodent startled the players, who did everything in their respective power to get as far away from it as they could. But it didn’t startle Scott Mellanby, who struck the rat with his stick, sending the rat to its ultimate death at the opposite wall.
Scott Mellanby inadvertently started the Florida Panthers rat throwing tradition
During the ensuing victory vs. the Calgary Flames that evening, Mellanby tacked on a pair of goals. Following the game, goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck revealed the pregame incident involving the rat, and Mellanby’s ultimate role. He further coined the phrase “rat trick.”
The fanbase quickly became aware of the incident, and soon after, one fan threw the first toy rat onto the ice. More fans caught on, and before everyone knew it, they could no longer count how many rats found their way onto the ice every time the Panthers found twine.
Now here we are, nearly 30 years later, and the rat-throwing tradition has become part of the franchise’s identity. However, you won’t see fans toss fake rats onto the ice every time the Florida Panthers score-the NHL put a stop to that years ago.
To make up for it, however, they allow fans to have their fun and throw the toy rats whenever a game ends at FLA Live Arena. So when you watch Florida take on the Vegas Golden Knights in pursuit of winning their first Stanley Cup, expect hundreds, if not thousands of rats to hit the ice.
And if the Panthers defeat Vegas to clinch the title on their home ice, the rats will undoubtedly become part of the celebration. That said, let’s hope to see plenty of toy rats on the ice if Matthew Tkachuk and Company raise the Stanley Cup.
Source: Florida Panthers and the History of the Rats by Joey Ganzi, TheHockeyWriters.com