On Thursday night, the Florida Panthers celebrated the 20th anniversary of their Eastern Conference championship by handing 10,000 commemorative rubber rats to fans.
While the hope was that fans would take those souvenir rodents home, they instead followed through with the team’s decades-long tradition: Tossing the rats on the ice after the Panthers scored in their 3-2 win against the New Jersey Devils.
The first time the Panthers scored, the referees warned the crowd that another 10-minute rodent removal delay would result in a penalty for the home team.
The second time the Panthers scored … well, more rats hit the ice and the officials gave Florida a two-minute minor for “objects thrown on the ice” in the third period. Later that period, the Panthers scored again, the rats flew again, and the team was penalized a second time.
Now, it would seem a bit self-defeating to give your opponent a power play thanks to a rat shower right after your team scores. Which is why one theory is that it wasn’t the home fans throwing them – it was the Devils fans in the crowd, according broadcaster Randy Moller.
Moller brings up a great point on TV... It's Devils fans throwing rats to get the Panthers penalized.
— Marc Hochman (@MarcHochman) April 1, 2016
If this sounds familiar, it’s because in the 2012 Eastern Conference Playoffs, the Panthers ended the sale of plastic rats at their team store and blamed Devils fans for it. Said team president Michael Yormark: "Panthers will not sell rats at Pantherland. This is a result of visiting fans throwing rats on the ice during the game.”
You know who takes this chicanery really seriously? Panthers legend Jaromir Jagr.
“I don’t really agree with the penalties,” he said after the win. “You can always say that it was New Jersey fans throwing them, and we should have had the power play. So I don’t think we should have gotten two penalties for it. The League should do something about it.”
Jagr then made a bold prediction: Teams will take advantage of the “Rat Trick” penalties by hiring plants in the stands to trigger them.
“If they’re going to give us a penalty every time someone throws a rat ... who are we going to play in the playoffs? They’re just going to hire some guy to throw the rats and get the power plays all game.”
Whoa. That’s a special kind of paranoia. Or, conversely, a deep understanding of the depravity of NHL opponents.
Watch the interview here:
But isn’t part of the problem that the Panthers, like, gave fans 10,000 rubber projectiles before the game?
According to Jagr: “They’re trying to sell the game. They don’t get penalized for selling the game.”
The Panthers have taken steps in the past to educate their fans on rodent-throwing etiquette, asking them to – ahem – rat out other people in their sections if they see someone tossing anything on the ice. Let’s hope these vigilant fans are able to properly identify those sleeper cells of vermin-chucking rivals that Jagr fears ... before it’s too late.
(No word on how NHL officials will handle things if the Panthers play the Boston Bruins and there’s a rat flying around the ice for 18 minutes a game.)
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