Florida Panthers fans probably have the most bizarre tradition in ice hockey history. Instead of getting greeted with confetti or gifts, the Florida Panthers get caught in a shower of plastic rats.
You might think that maybe the audience hates the team or it’s to discourage them, but no, these rodents are actually how fans express their support. Bizarre as it may be, the team has also accepted it.
At least the plastic rats are a huge update from the real rodents that used to infest Florida Panthers’ games. The 1995-96 season was the wildest season for the Panthers, as the staff had to spend more time cleaning up rogue rats than anything else.
However, the rats have now become symbolic of the team and are considered a lucky charm by many. So, how did this peculiar tradition originate, and how did it stick? Let’s delve into the history of the Panthers and their rats.
The History of Rats and Florida Panthers
During the 1995-96 season, the Panthers had a game against the Calgary Flames. On October 8, 1995, the Panthers discovered a rat in their locker just before the game. Scott Mellanby, who was the then-captain of the team, smashed the rodent with a stick.
Later in the game, Mellanby scored two goals, leading to a 4:3 victory against the Flames. It was the first win of the season for the Panthers. As the news of the rat in the locker got out, fans started thinking of it as a lucky charm.
During the next game, a fan threw a plastic rat onto the ice after Panthers scored a goal. The rats kept increasing as the team kept winning, slowly becoming a trend.
Why are Rats Thrown at Florida Panthers Games?
Ever since the Florida Panthers encountered a rat in their locker room in 1995 and then won in the following game, fans have considered rats a lucky token for the team. After the first win against Calgary Flames, plastic rats were thrown on the ice after every goal.
Soon, this became a nuisance as cleaners and an exterminator company had to be called just to resume the game again. In that particular season, the Panthers got third place in the regular season in the Atlantic Division and even qualified for playoffs for the first time.
Because of this craze, NHL had to revise its rules to prevent this from happening again. As per the rule, if fans threw debris on the rink despite being warned, it could lead to the home team receiving a delay of game penalty. After this, rats were thrown on the rink only after the game was over and not during it.
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What is a Rat-Trick?
A ‘Rat-Trick’ was a term coined by John Vanbiesbrouck, the goalie of the Florida Panthers, during the 1995-96 season. After Captain Mellanby killed a rat in the locker room before the games and scored two goals later, John commented, “He scored a rat trick.” since he couldn’t score a hat trick.
The Rat-Trick craze also refers to the tradition followed by Panthers’ fans. When the team wins a game, the audience throws plastic rats on the rink as a time-honored tradition.
This might be an outlandish tradition for you and me, but the Panthers and their fans have welcomed it. It might puzzle new fans and those who watch a Panthers game for the first time, but that’s what adds to the madness and fun!
So, what do you think of this weird yet hilarious custom? Have you ever been to a Panthers game and been absolutely terrified of the infestation? Tell us more about your experience or views in the comments below.