Stanley Cup

Why Panthers fans threw fake rats onto the ice after Game 7 win in Cup Final

The rodent-related tradition dates back to Florida's third season as an NHL franchise.

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It was raining fake rats at Amerant Bank Arena on Monday.

The Florida Panthers captured the franchise's first Stanley Cup championship with a 2-1 Game 7 win over the Edmonton Oilers in Sunrise, Fla.

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The Panthers had entered the winner-take-all showdown on the brink of blowing a 3-0 series lead. But Sam Reinhart's second-period goal, which came moments after the Oilers nearly scored a go-ahead goal of their own, was enough to push Florida past Edmonton.

After the final horn sounded, Panthers fans celebrated their team's championship triumph by throwing fake rats onto the ice:

But exactly how and when did that rodent-related celebration become a tradition among Panthers fans? Here's what to know:

Why do Florida Panthers fans throw rats onto the ice?

The rat-throwing tradition dates back to the Panthers' third season as an NHL franchise. Ahead of Florida's home opener in 1995-96, forward Scott Mellanby spotted a rat running through the team's locker room. Mellanby then took his stick and slapped the rat, sending it flying into a wall and killing it.

Later that night, Mellanby scored two goals as Florida defeated the Calgary Flames 4-3 for the team's first win of the season. And following the victory, goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck told reporters that Mellanby had recorded a "rat trick."

But some Panthers players became upset when they learned that one of the team's equipment managers, Scott Tinkler, had gotten rid of the dead rat, according to NHL.com.

“They asked if I kept it," Tinkler recounted to NHL.com. "No! It’s a huge dead rat! I picked it up with a stick and threw it away. Some of the guys wanted to take it to a taxidermist or something."

So, when Tinkler was at a mall a few days later, he spotted a rubber rat in a Halloween store, purchased it and placed it in the locker room where the actual rat had died, per NHL.com. Once the rat shrine became public knowledge, Panthers fans began throwing fake rats onto the ice -- at first only when Mellanby scored and eventually after every Panthers goal.

The Panthers' 1995-96 campaign would ultimately become known as the "Year of the Rat." After two losing seasons, the team made a run all the way to the 1996 Cup Final. (The Year of the Rat on the Chinese Zodiac calendar was also 1996).

Following Florida's 1996 Cup Final loss, the NHL banned the throwing of rats after goals, citing the extended delay to clear the ice it can cause.

But to this day, rats will still come raining down onto the ice following Panthers wins, as seen at Game 7 of the Cup Final.

The tradition isn't limited to just home games, either, as the rats have made appearances following Panthers road victories at times as well.

What is the Florida Panthers' mascot?

The Panthers even have a rat mascot -- the aptly-named Viktor E. Ratt was introduced in 2014. Stanley C. Panther, the team's other mascot, has been around since the franchise's inaugural season.

Florida Panthers mascot Viktor E. Ratt celebrates a win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Jan. 15, 2022, in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)
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