Florida Panthers Fans Have Been Throwing Rats on the Ice for Decades Now

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Apr. 24 2023, Published 11:36 a.m. ET

With the Florida Panthers back in the NHL playoffs, there's a lot of newfound attention on a team that many people had ignored for decades. As the team moves back into the spotlight, though, there have been a few questions about a strange tradition that fans of the team seem to enjoy.

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That tradition, which involves throwing fake rats onto the ice, has been around for decades, but that doesn't make it feel any less bizarre to people who are unfamiliar with it. But why do Panthers fans throw rats on the ice?

The Florida Panthers mascot on 'The Price Is Right' in 2009.
Source: Getty Images
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Why do Panthers fans throw rats?

Panthers fans throw fake rats onto the ice after games because of a story that dates all the way back to 1995. On Oct. 8 of that year, a rat appeared in the locker room of the Panthers as they were getting set to take on the Calgary Flames when the Panthers were located in their old arena in Miami. Scott Mellanby, who was then a captain of a team, grabbed his stick and hit the rat into the wall.

Later that night, Scott scored two goals in the game, which prompted John Vanbiesbrouck, the team's goalie, to say that Scott had scored a "rat trick."

The legend states that the next night, a fan threw a rat onto the ice, and the night after that, a few more rats appeared. Suddenly, a tradition was born, as Panthers fans began to throw rats onto the ice after a goal was scored.

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This new tradition prompted the Panthers to partner with Orko, the extermination company, and have men in Orko uniforms cleanup the rink following these celebrations. More recently, though, as the Panthers' status inside the league went into decline, the rats went with them. The tradition eventually seemed to disappear altogether, in part because the Panthers weren't scoring quite as many goals as they once did.

The rats have made a major comeback.

In 2012, as the Panthers began to win more regularly and return to the playoffs, fans also began throwing rats onto the ice once again. After the rats returned on their own, the new owners behind the Panthers decided to capitalize on the tradition and began to sell rats at the Bank Atlantic Center.

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Over the years, the traditions involving the rats have evolved, in part because of an incident involving the New Jersey Devils during a playoff game in which a few rats wound up on the ice during gameplay. The Panthers obviously claimed that Devils fans were the ones actually throwing the rats to disrupt play, and the ultimate truth is unclear.

The net result of this disruption, though was that fans are now asked to wait until after a game is over to start throwing rats onto the ice. That way, there's no possibility that the rats could disrupt the flow of the game or lead to any injuries. As random as the tradition may seem, it's one that has become important to Panthers fans. If they manage to make a deep playoff run, we may even see some rats at the Stanley Cup Finals.

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