Rat in hockey means a player who spends most of his time at an ice rink. Florida Panthers fans used rats as a symbol of success in the 1995 season.

Similarly, being called a rink rat is considered good for a young hockey player. Besides, the NHL is currently amid the Stanley Cup playoffs, culminating in the season-long battle for the ultimate prize in ice hockey.

One of the most legendary plays in ice hockey is the rat trick, which transpires when a player stacks three or more goals in a single game, and the fans throw toys onto the ice in celebration. This tradition began during the Florida Panthers' run to the 1996 Stanley Cup Finals, and it has since become a beloved part of NHL lore.

In the current NHL season, the Florida Panthers have been one of the dominant teams, and they are currently facing off against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Auston Matthews in the second playoffs. The Panthers have been in great form and are looking to continue their impressive run toward their first-ever Stanley Cup title. 

Why Do Florida Panthers Fans Throw Rats On Ice?

The Florida Panthers rat trick tradition began during the 1995-1996 season. A rat entered the teams locker room in the Old Miami Arena. 

The team's former captain, Scott Mellanby used his stick to kill the rat before scoring two goals with the same stick during the game against the Calgary Flames.

Following Mellanby's feat, the Panthers' goalie John Vanbiesbrouck, coined the term "rat trick." A fan threw a plastic rat onto the ice at the next game after a Panthers player scored a goal. This initiated a new tradition, with players and fans tossing plastic rats onto the ice after every Panthers goal.

The trend continued throughout the playoffs, and the Panthers reached the Stanley Cup Finals, where they faced the Colorado Avalanche but ultimately lost. Despite the defeat, the rat symbolized the Panthers' success and perseverance.

Panthers fans showered ice with thousands of plastic rats after Ray Sheppard scored the first home goal for Florida in the Finals in June 1996
Source : nhl

This unique tradition lasted several years in Florida and even spread to other teams and sports.

The NHL changed its rules in 1996-97 to prevent delays caused by the craze. If fans throw debris onto the ice, the referee can warn them to stop through the public address announcer. If the fans ignore the warning, the referee can penalize the home team for delaying the game.

In 2007, the Florida Panthers held a "Year of the Rat" alumni reunion to celebrate the 1996 team and raise money for charity. They sold plastic rats for fans to throw during an exhibition game.

This symbolized the team's success that season and fans revived the tradition in 2012, throwing plastic rats onto the ice after home victories.

How Rat Trick Evolved In The NHL

During a game, when a player scored two goals, the coach referred to it as a "rat trick." The media exposed this information, and soon the fans embraced it. They began throwing rubber rats onto the ice after a goal was scored, making it a new tradition for the Panthers.

(Left) John Vanbiesbrouck goes for a skate after a Florida Panthers goal during the RatTrick season of 1996.
Source : twitter

The tradition gained popularity after the team clinched their first playoff spot in 1996 and continued during the Cup Finals against Colorado. The fans threw thousands of rats onto the Miami Center's ice, causing delays in the game.

After the 1996 season, the NHL introduced a new rule that penalized the home team if fans threw objects onto the ice, leading to game delays (excluding hats for a hat trick). Despite this, the tradition of throwing rats continued among Panthers fans.

Amid this, the term "rat hockey" refers to an informal setting where participants engage in a pickup game of ice hockey without any supervision, formal organization, or performance pressure, per addisonnice.com.

Panthers Have High Hopes For Stanley Cup In 2023

The Florida Panthers are currently vying for the Stanley Cup trophy in 2023, with high hopes of clinching the title. 

In the Eastern Conference first round, the Panthers were down 3-1 in the series against the Boston Bruins but managed to stage an impressive comeback to win the series in seven games.

Goaltender Linus Ullmark played a key role in the team's victory in Game 1, making 31 saves to backstop the Bruins in a 3-1 win. The Panthers, however, bounced back in Game 2 with a four-goal third period, led by Brandon Montour's two goals, to clinch a 6-3 win.

The Panthers' thrilling overtime win against the Boston Bruins in the latest game means they are only the second team to overcome a 3-1 series deficit to conquer the Presidents' Trophy winner in any round of the playoffs since the 2010 Conference Quarterfinals against the Capitals.

The Panthers win over Maple Leafs in the second playoffs of the 2023 Stanley Cup
Source : facebook

Florida is only the eighth team to overpower the Presidents' Trophy champion in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which was introduced in 1985-86. 

The team won via a Game 7 victory, marking their third Game 7 in franchise history, after a win in the 1996 Conference Finals and a loss in the 2012 Conference Quarterfinals.

In the upcoming Game 4, the Panthers will face off against the Toronto Maple Leafs, dominating the team in Game 1, Game 2, and Game 3. With their impressive form, the Panthers look strong going into the second playoff and have high hopes of clinching the Stanley Cup trophy in 2023.