BB&T Center, Home of the Florida Panthers 

"The Rat Trick" is one of the more popular fan traditions in the National Hockey League, however, it is also somewhat of a well kept secret. A few of the more popular fan traditions in the NHL include the Chicago Blackhawks fans that cheer during the national anthem and the Detroit Red Wings fans that throw Octopus onto the ice at Joe Louis Arena. That could be because the Florida Panthers don't get nearly as much media exposure or have as large of a fan base as other NHL teams. However, how this quirky tradition began is legendary. 

Just before the Florida Panthers home opener on October 8th, 1995, Panthers right winger Scott Mellanby killed a rat with his hockey stick in the locker room. Mellanby then used the same stick to score two goals during the game vs. the Calgary Flames. Florida Panthers goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck coined Mellanby's night as "The Rat Trick". When the next home game came around, a Panthers fans threw a rubber rat onto the ice. A month later, more than 100 rats were regularly being thrown onto the ice by fans following every goal the team scored. 

Ice Crew cleaning up plastic Rats at the BB&T Center 

Photo Source: Starpulse.com

The Florida Panthers went on to finish third place in the NHL's Atlantic Division in 1996, securing the team's very first Stanley Cup Playoff appearance. The franchise had only played three seasons at the time and went on to beat the Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1996 playoffs. All three opponents were well established and are one of the NHL's original twelve teams. The "year of the rat" would come to an end after getting swept by Patrick Roy and the Colorado Avalanche during the Stanley Cup Championship. 

 

 

A year later, the National Hockey League implemented a rule that would allow referees to penalize the home team if the fans disrupted the game by throwing objects onto the ice. Of course, NHL league officials would still allow for the more traditional "hat trick" celebrations to take place across the league. The rat trick tradition was once again revived in 2012 when the Florida Panthers returned to the Stanley Cup Playoffs and won it's first playoff victory since 1997. Only this time, the rats were thrown onto the ice following a victory and not after every goal scored. The Florida Panthers also put together a strong showing during their 2015-2016 campaign. 

Plastic Rat sold at the BB&T Center, Home of the Florida Panthers

Souvenir rats have been sold at the team's gift shop off and on over the years. The organization found itself in a tough spot when fans of opposing teams were throwing the rats onto the ice, drawing the home team a delay of game penalty. One particular fan base that was doing it frequently were the New Jersey Devils fans. Time will tell how long the rat trick tradition sticks around the league. The Florida Panthers organization often finds itself at the center of relocation rumors due to the team's less than stellar attendance. Technically, the rat trick tradition is a spin on the hat trick tradition which was founded by the Guelph Biltmore Mad Hatters in Ontario; a tradition that will never vanish. 

 

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