The Florida Panthers are a professional ice hockey team based in Sunrise, Florida, USA. They have a unique tradition of throwing rats on the ice during games. Here’s why.
Origin of the Rat Trick
- The rat tradition started during the 1995-96 season of the Panthers. It all began when Scott Mellanby, the team captain, killed a rat in the locker room using his hockey stick before a game against the Calgary Flames. He went on to score two goals in that game, and the Panthers won 4-3.
- In the next game, fans started throwing plastic rats on the ice every time a Panthers player scored a goal. This was a nod to Mellanby’s rat-killing incident.
- The tradition quickly caught on and became known as the “rat trick.”
The First Rat Trick
- The first official “rat trick” occurred during a game against the New Jersey Devils on October 8, 1995. The Panthers won 4-3, and the fans threw hundreds of plastic rats on the ice.
- The NHL attempted to ban the tradition, citing safety concerns, but eventually relented and allowed the rats to be thrown only after a Panthers goal was scored.
Evolution of the Tradition
- The rat throwing tradition continued to evolve over the years. Fans started throwing bigger and bigger rats on the ice, and some even threw real rats.
- In 2012, the Panthers’ mascot, Stanley C. Panther, started using an oversized rat trap to catch a large rat on the ice during pregame ceremonies. This has become a popular part of Panthers home games.
- In 2016, the Panthers held a “Rat Trick Reunion” event to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the tradition. Former players and coaches from the 1995-96 team were in attendance, and the team wore special throwback jerseys for the occasion.
Impact of the Tradition
- The rat tradition has become a beloved part of Panthers’ culture and has helped to create a unique identity for the team.
- The tradition has also had an impact on the local community. In 2019, the Panthers partnered with the Florida Wildlife Federation to launch a “Rats to Riches” campaign, which encouraged fans to donate $5 to the federation in exchange for a plastic rat to throw on the ice during games.
- The campaign raised over $15,000, which was used to support conservation efforts in Florida.
The Florida Panthers’ rat throwing tradition is a unique and beloved aspect of the team’s culture. It all started with Scott Mellanby’s rat-killing incident in the locker room, and has evolved over the years into a full-fledged tradition that has become a symbol of the team’s identity. Despite attempts to ban the tradition, it has endured and even led to positive impacts on the local community through the “Rats to Riches” campaign. The rat tradition is a testament to the power of sports to create unique and enduring traditions that can have a positive impact beyond the game itself.
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