The Florida Panthers have made it to the Stanley Cup Final, and with it has come a tradition that dates back to the franchise’s early days. The Panthers have a history with rats, specifically plastic ones, that are thrown onto the ice by fans to celebrate goals.
This tradition began during the 1995-1996 season, which was a crucial year for the Panthers. It was their first Cup Final appearance, and the team needed to establish long-standing traditions. During the opening game of that season, when Florida played at Miami Arena, forward Scott Mellanby had to kill a rat with his stick before the game. Mellanby then went on to score two goals in the Panthers’ 4-3 victory over Calgary. Goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck joked after the game that Mellanby’s accomplishment constituted a “rat trick”, and so the season became known as the Year of the Rat.
Florida’s fans picked up on the trend and began throwing plastic rats, which they purchased at gas stations, convenience stores, or even at the rink itself, onto the ice after Panthers goals. The tradition continued all the way through Florida’s run to the ’96 Cup Final against Colorado. However, the Panthers were swept by the Avalanche in that series, which soured some of the rat-tossing efficacy at bringing good luck. The NHL subsequently banned the act entirely, citing onerous delays required to clear the ice.
Despite the ban, plastic rats have found their way from the stands onto the ice over the years. In 2007, Panthers alumni sold the rats to raise money for the Florida Panthers Foundation. In 2011-12, when Florida made the playoffs for the first time in a decade, rats were back in the rotation (although the team did stop selling them in the arena). During the lean years that followed, Florida tried to keep a spark from the tradition in play, coming up with a secondary mascot named Viktor E. Ratt in 2014.
The Panthers’ recent improvements, including three consecutive playoff berths, a Presidents’ Trophy last season, and the Cup Final trip this season, have again brought rats back to the forefront. Through thick and thin, the plastic rodents have been part of Florida’s lore.
The Florida Panthers have a unique tradition that involves throwing plastic rats onto the ice after goals. This tradition dates back to the franchise’s first Cup Final appearance in 1996, and despite being banned by the NHL, plastic rats have found their way onto the ice over the years. The Panthers’ recent success has brought the tradition back to the forefront, and it is an integral part of Florida’s lore. So, the next time you see a plastic rat flying through the air at a Florida Panthers game, do not be alarmed as it is a sign of something good happening for the home team.