December 13, 2011
Before their home opener for the 1995-96 season, Florida Panthers forward Scott Mellanby saw a rat inside the team locker room and flung it against a wall, killing it immediately. That night, with the same stick he used to kill the rat, Mellanby scored twice as the Panthers beat the Calgary Flames 4-3. The pair of goals and dead rodent became what is now known as "The Rat Trick."
From there, the legend of the rat took off through the Panthers' run to the Stanley Cup Final against the Colorado Avalanche. Fans picked up on the story and began throwing plastic rats onto the Miami Arena ice.
Here's Ray Sheppard helping to give you a visual reminder:
After the 1995-96 season, the NHL determined that a penalty could be given to the home team if anything was tossed onto the ice.
With the Panthers revitalization this season, the return of the rats is upon us.
On Tuesday, the Panthers' team store began selling the plastic rats again as they start a four-game homestand against the New Jersey Devils. The white, black and grey colored rats are $5 each or free with a $50 purchase at the team store.
The ban on throwing them on the ice after goals is still intact, but as we saw during a few recent victories, once the game is over and the Panthers have gobbled up two points, there's no stopping the fans from reliving the Year of the Rat of 1996 and forcing opposing goaltenders to hide within their own nets.
Photo credits: AP, Florida Panthers