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Florida Panthers and Rats History – Hockey Writers – Florida Panthers

This article was originally published in April 2012.

With the Florida Panthers finally back in the NHL playoffs, a new generation of fans is experiencing one of the best traditions in hockey.

For older Panthers fans, the return of the rats to South Florida is an eyesore and leads them to fondly recall the Panthers' run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1996. However, for the younger generation, a brief history lesson may follow with the story of the flying bug.

Origin of the Florida Panthers Rats

The story of the mice goes back to Oct. 8, 1995. Before a game against the Calgary Flames, a rat appeared in the Panthers' locker room at the old Miami Arena. Former Panthers captain Scott Mellanby jumped up, grabbed a stick, and slammed the pesky rat into the wall. Later that night, Mellanby scored two goals, leading Panthers goalkeeper John Vanbiesbrouck to say, “You hit the mark”.

The Florida Panthers and the History of the Rats

As the legend goes, the next night, a fan threw a plastic mouse onto the ice. The next night, some mice find themselves slipping into the playground. The South Florida hockey tradition was born and the Year of the Rat was in full swing.

During that season, fans would throw rats onto the ice after every goal, leading the Panthers to partner with the exterminator company Orkin and have men in killer uniforms clean the rink. It was amazing to see goalkeepers who are the most athletic goalkeepers in any sport, slamming the nets as the rats pounced on them. Because of the new culture of the Panthers, the Miami Arena became one of the most violent and hostile in sports.

However, as the Panthers went out of use, so did the Panthers mice. Fans no longer threw at games and seemed to be a distant memory.

The resurgence of the Florida Panthers Rats

However, for whatever reason, something happened in 2012 with this Panthers team. For the first time in recent memory, fans once again threw rats after a team won. Call it a coincidence if you will, but the return of the Rats also coincided with the team's return to the playoffs and even their first Southeast Division crown.

The new ownership group, which had brought back a version of the old red jerseys, embraced the tradition and began selling plastic mice at the Bank Atlantic Center. It is clear that the team has also embraced the culture in the same way, always talking about the 1996 World Cup and how nice it is to see the fans get involved again. Many players even pick up mice as souvenirs after important wins.

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Believe it or not, but rats became the story line in the first round playoff series against the New Jersey Devils. The flying mice seem to have reached some Devils players, including Martin Brodeur. The NHL has asked the Panthers organization to stop selling mice on the field after several got onto the ice during a game. Of course, the Panthers say this is because of the Devils fans, who are trying to benefit their team. Currently, the team is asking fans to throw rats on the ice after a win rather than during the game.

Whichever side you choose to believe, it's hard to deny the importance of tradition to Panthers fans. The resurgence of the Panthers, along with the team's success, has reinvigorated a once-weakened fan base. Maybe, if the Panthers continue to be successful, a younger generation of Panthers fans will finally have some happy memories of their own.

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