The Story Behind The Florida Panthers' Rat Trick

Florida Panthers fans throwing rats on ice
June 8, 1996: Clean-up workers clear the ice of rubber rats after Florida scored a goal during the first period of game three of the Stanley Cup Finals at Miami Arena in Miami, Florida. (Glenn Cratty/ALLSPORT/NHL Images)

It was one of the most unique sights in all of professional sports to witness: rats were being thrown onto the Florida Panthers' home ice during the 1995-1996 season and throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs...

Rubber rats, of course. 

Fans may recall seeing older video highlights of the rats showering onto the Colorado Avalanche's goaltender Patrick Roy during the 1996 Stanley Cup Finals. But, many may wonder how the Panthers' tradition come about.

Why Panthers Fans Started Throwing Rats Onto The Ice

The story began during the franchise's third NHL season at the Miami Arena. Forward Scott Mellanby killed a rat with his hockey stick, which had tried scurrying across the team's locker room before the Panthers' home opener on October 8, 1995. 

Mellanby went on to score two goals in the game with the same stick in which he killed the rat with. After the game, Florida's goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck then nicknamed Mellanby's feat the "Rat Trick." 

The Rat Trick

Once word had spread to the fans about Mellanby's Rat Trick, they established the Panthers' newest tradition of throwing rubber rats onto the ice during games after a goal was scored. The tradition especially grew in popularity once the team clinched its first playoff birth in 1996 and continued when Florida reached the Cup Finals vs. Colorado.

By then, thousands of rats came crashing down onto the Miami Center's ice.

Prohibition

This rare happening obviously delayed the game quite a bit. 

Following the 1996 season, the NHL had initiated a new rule where the home team could get penalized for fans throwing objects onto the ice (excluding hats for a hat trick) that would delay a game for an extensive period of time. 

Comeback

The tradition returned in 2012 when the Panthers made the playoffs for the first time in 12 seasons -- fans happily threw rats back onto their home ice after Florida beat the New Jersey Devils 4-2 during the first round of the playoffs. It was the Panthers' first playoff win since 1997.