Dec 4, 2011, 7:12 PM EDT
One of the lasting images from Florida’s unexpected 1996 Stanley Cup run was the “Rat Trick” — an homage to forward Scott Mellanby who, after killing a dressing room rat with his stick, scored two goals in the Panthers’ first win of the season. After the story went public, Panthers fans began throwing plastic rats on the ice to celebrate goals. And when it was learned Florida’s playoff appearance coincided with the Year of the Rat in the Chinese Zodiac, things really took off.
Here’s the Rat Trick at its zenith:
Fifteen years later, they’re throwing rats again. With the Panthers off to their best start in years — tops in the Southeast Division, they head into into Monday’s game against Washington holding a five-point lead on the second-place Caps — Miami has seemingly rekindled its love with the local hockey squadron. Just ask Ed Jovanovski, who nearly got tagged by a flying rat after a win last month.
“It was funny. I wasn’t even thinking about them and one whistled right by my head,” he told the Miami Herald. “It’s good to see that old tradition back, good to see fans have fun again. It’s nice to give them something to cheer about.”
Jovanovski isn’t the only one noticing a renewed passion for the Panthers.
“I run into people at Publix [supermarket] now and everyone is stopping me wanting to talk about the team,” said Florida play-by-play man Randy Moller. “They’re an exciting team to watch. The fans believe the Panthers have turned the corner. My neighbors used to dodge the subject of the Panthers or try to lift my spirits. Now? It’s ‘how ’bout those Panthers!’ I’m having a blast calling these games and talking about this team.”
The Panthers picked a good time to play their best hockey in ages (the club hasn’t been to the postseason in 10 years.) The Dolphins are bad, the Heat are still out of commission and the (University of Miami) Hurricanes are having a down year. They’re also doing decent numbers at the gate — Florida ranks 21st in the NHL in attendance, up from 25th during the 2009-10 season.
(Image courtesy rattrick.com)
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