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Why do Florida Panthers hockey fans throw rats on the ice?

They are back in the Stanley Cup Finals, but a new wave of fans are again enjoying one of hockey’s most beloved playoff traditions. Will we see the rats in game 7?

SUNRISE, FLORIDA - JUNE 10: The Florida Panthers celebrate their victory over the Edmonton Oilers in Game Two of the 2024 Stanley Cup Final at Amerant Bank Arena on June 10, 2024 in Sunrise, Florida.   Bruce Bennett/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by BRUCE BENNETT / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

The return of rats at Panthers games in South Florida is a nostalgic sight for loyal fans, bringing back fond memories of the team’s exhilarating run to the Stanley Cup Final in 1996. Nevertheless, younger fans may need a quick history lesson on the origin of airborne rodents. As fans of all generations delight in this tradition, it serves as a reminder of the team’s distinctive past and the unwavering support of its fans.

Panthers and their obsession with rats

Did you know that the tradition of tossing rats on the ice during Florida Panthers hockey matches goes way back to the 1995-1996 NHL season? It all began when Scott Mellanby, a forward, scored two goals in one game and, before the next match, killed a rat in the locker room with his stick.

This incident fueled the team’s spirit, and supporters started bringing rubber rats to games to show solidarity. Eventually, when the Panthers won a playoff series that season, fans began throwing rats onto the ice to celebrate goals. This practice has become an endearing and unique aspect of the Florida Panthers hockey culture.

What is the origin of Florida Panthers rats?

So, as the story goes...

On October 8, 1995, a rat made its way into the Florida Panthers’ locker room before a game against the Calgary Flames at the Miami Arena, which is now defunct. Scott Mellanby, the team’s former captain, quickly hit the rodent with a stick against the wall. Mellanby scored two goals that evening, leading the Panthers’ goalie, John Vanbiesbrouck, to joke that he had completed a “rat trick.” This incident sparked a tradition among Panthers fans that has lasted to this day.

According to legend, a fan threw a plastic rodent onto the ice the night after Mellanby’s rat kill, starting a unique South Florida ice hockey tradition defining the Year of the Rat. Panthers supporters joyfully hurled rats onto the ice throughout that unforgettable season to celebrate every goal scored. As the trend gained momentum, the Panthers partnered with Orkin, a pest control company, to have men in exterminator gear clear the rink.

Even the toughest athletes in any sport, the opposing goalies, were forced to evade the airborne rodents. The Miami Arena, transformed by the Panthers’ new custom, became one of the most raucous and intimidating venues in all sports.