The Quirky Tradition of Rat-Tossing: How Come Florida Fans Throw Rats on the Ice?

Benjamin Kenyon

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Fans Throw Rats on the Ice

In the world of sports, traditions are the heartbeat of fan culture. They add flavor to the game, uniting supporters in unique and unforgettable ways. 

One such extraordinary tradition is the rat-tossing spectacle that unfolds during Florida Panthers’ hockey games. For those unfamiliar with this endearing oddity, the sight of plastic rats raining down on the ice might seem perplexing. 

However, it’s a tradition deeply rooted in the team’s history and has become a symbol of passion, resilience, and unshakable fandom. But how come Florida fans throw rats on the ice? What’s the story behind it? 

In this blog post, we will delve into the origins of this fascinating tradition, its evolution, the NHL’s response, and its significance to the Florida Panthers’ identity. 

So, let’s embark on a journey to uncover the delightful mystery of why Florida fans throw rats on the ice. So, stay focused. 

Fans Throw Rats on the Ice

How Come Florida Fans Throw Rats on the Ice?

Florida Panthers fans throw plastic rats on the ice as a unique tradition rooted in the team’s history. The tradition dates back to the 1995-96 NHL season when the Panthers had an unexpected run to the Stanley Cup Finals. 

During that playoff run, a fan threw a rubber rat onto the ice to celebrate a goal, which soon became a symbol of good luck.

The story goes that Scott Mellanby, a Panthers player, famously killed a rat in the locker room with his stick before scoring two goals in that same game. 

This act gave birth to the “Rat Trick” and further cemented the rat as a symbol of good fortune for the team. 

Fans embraced this quirky tradition, and even today, they continue to throw plastic rats onto the ice to celebrate goals and victories. 

The Panthers have incorporated the rat motif into their branding, making it a beloved and enduring part of the team’s identity.

The Origins of the Tradition of Throwing Rats on the Ice

The tradition of throwing rats on the ice at Florida Panthers games has a fascinating origin story:

The Home Opener in 1995

The tradition began during the Florida Panthers’ home opener in the 1995-96 NHL season.

Unwanted Visitor

A rat somehow found its way into the Panthers’ dressing room at the Miami Arena before the game.

Scott Mellanby’s Response

Scott Mellanby, a forward for the Panthers, took action. In response to the rat’s presence, he used his hockey stick to deliver a lethal blow to the intruding rodent.

The Rat’s Demise

With a single swipe of his stick, Mellanby successfully killed the rat. This memorable act served as the catalyst for what would become a cherished tradition.

The “Rat Trick”

What happened next is legendary. Mellanby went on to score two goals during that game, using the very stick he had used to dispatch the rat.

Birth of the Tradition

The term “Rat Trick” was coined in the aftermath of Mellanby’s feat, a playful spin on the traditional “hat trick” in hockey (scoring three goals in a game).

Fan Enthusiasm

Fans were quick to embrace this quirky incident and began bringing rubber rats to the games.

Rat Tossing

Whenever the Panthers scored a goal, fans would gleefully toss these plastic rats onto the ice in celebration.

Team Identity

Over time, this tradition became an integral part of the team’s identity, and the Panthers even incorporated the rat motif into their branding and merchandise.

Good Luck Symbol

The rat toss is now seen as a symbol of good luck and a unique tradition that sets the Florida Panthers apart in the NHL.

This unusual tradition not only showcases the passionate fan base of the Panthers but also highlights how a seemingly mundane incident can evolve into a beloved and enduring aspect of sports culture.

How Throwing Rats Evolved Into a Celebratory Gesture?

Throwing Rats Evolved Into a Celebratory Gesture

The act of throwing rats onto the ice at Florida Panthers games evolved from a one-time incident into a cherished celebratory gesture over the years, thanks to several key factors:

Scott Mellanby’s Heroics

The initial catalyst was Scott Mellanby’s remarkable performance. His two-goal game with the same stick used to dispatch the rat was a memorable and attention-grabbing feat.

Naming the “Rat Trick”

The playful term “Rat Trick” was coined to describe Mellanby’s achievement, drawing a parallel to the traditional “hat trick” in hockey. This clever wordplay added a layer of humor to the story.

Fan Enthusiasm

Fans quickly caught on to the novelty of the situation. They found humor and excitement in the rat incident and wanted to be a part of it.

Spontaneous Participation

The decision of fans to bring rubber rats to games and toss them onto the ice was spontaneous. It started as a way for fans to show their support for the team and celebrate goals in a unique and fun manner.

Team’s Success

The Panthers’ unexpected success during the 1995-96 season, which included a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals, further fueled fan enthusiasm. 

The rat tradition became associated with good luck, and fans believed it brought positive energy to the team.

Endearing Quirkiness

The tradition’s quirkiness and unpredictability made it endearing. It was something that set the Florida Panthers apart and added an element of surprise to their games.

Embraced by the Team

Rather than discouraging the rat tossing, the Panthers organization embraced the tradition. They even displayed a giant rat sculpture outside their arena.

Rat-Related Merchandise

The Panthers capitalized on the tradition by selling rat-themed merchandise, such as hats and shirts, further solidifying the connection between the team and the rat-tossing fans.

Continued Support

Even as the years passed, fans continued to participate in the tradition, passing it down to newer generations of Panthers supporters.

The evolution of rat tossing into a celebratory gesture was a result of a perfect storm of unique circumstances, and the organization’s willingness to embrace this quirky tradition.

NHL’s Response to Throwing Rats on the Ice

NHL's Response to Throwing Rats on the Ice

The NHL’s response to the tradition of throwing rats on the ice at Florida Panthers games has been mixed but generally accommodating. Here are some key points regarding the league’s stance:

Initial Reaction

When the rat-tossing tradition first began in the mid-1990s, the NHL was taken by surprise. It was an unconventional and unprecedented spectacle in the league.

Safety Concerns

Initially, the league expressed concerns about safety, as objects being thrown onto the ice could potentially endanger players and officials. They did, however, recognize that the rats were plastic and not harmful.

League Acceptance

Over time, as the tradition continued and the Panthers’ success fueled its popularity, the league began to accept it as a unique aspect of the team’s culture.


The NHL showed tolerance for the tradition as long as it didn’t disrupt the flow of the game or pose a genuine safety risk. They didn’t formally endorse it but allowed it to occur during the Panthers’ home games.

Rule Implementation

In certain cases, the NHL took action to prevent excessive rat tossing. For instance, they issued penalties to the home team if fans threw rats onto the ice after the game had resumed following a stoppage.

Supportive Statements

NHL officials and representatives have occasionally made statements acknowledging the tradition’s quirkiness and its connection to the Panthers’ history.

Mutual Understanding

There seemed to be a mutual understanding between the league and the Panthers that the tradition was an important part of the team’s identity and fan culture.

Continued Tradition

Despite occasional restrictions and penalties, the tradition of throwing rats continued and became ingrained in the Florida Panthers’ game-day experience.

The NHL initially had concerns about safety but gradually accepted the rat-tossing tradition as part of the Florida Panthers’ unique identity.

Tradition of Throwing Rats in Recent Years

Here’s a summary of how the tradition was carried out in recent years:

Pre-Game Hype

Before each home game, fans often purchased rubber rats from vendors outside the arena. This allowed them to participate in the tradition during the game.

Goal Celebrations

When the Florida Panthers scored a goal, fans would enthusiastically toss their rubber rats onto the ice. The sight of a flurry of plastic rats on the ice became a signature moment of celebration.

Positive Fan Energy

The tradition continued to be seen as a symbol of good luck and a way for fans to show their support and passion for the team.

Embraced by the Team

The Florida Panthers organization continued to embrace the tradition. They acknowledged its importance in team history and incorporated rat-themed merchandise into their fan offerings.

League Tolerance

The NHL generally continued to tolerate the tradition, recognizing its significance to the Panthers’ fan base. While penalties were occasionally issued for excessive delays, the league understood the tradition’s uniqueness.

Connection to Past Success

The tradition’s origins tied it to the Panthers’ unexpected run to the Stanley Cup Finals in the 1995-96 season. It remained a cherished link to that period of success.


Why do Florida fans throw rats on the ice at Panthers games?

Florida fans throw rats on the ice to celebrate goals and victories by the Florida Panthers. 

This tradition, known as the “Rat Trick,” originated when a rat entered the team’s dressing room before a game, and Scott Mellanby famously scored two goals with the same stick he used to kill the rat.

What’s the significance of the rat-tossing tradition?

The tradition of throwing rats symbolizes good luck and serves as a unique expression of fan support and team spirit. 

It’s a reminder of the unexpected success of the Panthers during their 1995-96 Stanley Cup Finals run, linked to Scott Mellanby’s memorable “Rat Trick.”

Has the NHL ever tried to stop fans from throwing rats on the ice?

While the NHL has expressed safety concerns over objects thrown onto the ice, they generally tolerated the rat-tossing tradition. 

In some instances, penalties were issued to prevent excessive delays, but the league recognized its significance to the Panthers’ fan culture.

Do fans still throw rats on the ice in recent years?

Fans participate in the rat-tossing tradition at Florida Panthers games. It remained a beloved and enduring part of the team’s culture, but I do not have information on developments in more recent years.

Does the Florida Panthers organization support the rat-tossing tradition?

Yes, the Florida Panthers organization has embraced the tradition. They acknowledge its historical importance and even sell rat-themed merchandise. 

The team’s positive stance on the tradition has helped solidify its place in the Panthers’ identity and fan experience.

Wrapping Up

In the world of sports, where traditions come and go, the Florida Panthers’ rat-tossing custom stands as a testament to the enduring power of fan culture. 

From its humble origins in a dressing room to becoming an iconic symbol of good luck and team spirit, this quirky tradition has woven itself into the very fabric of the Florida Panthers’ identity. 

It’s a celebration of fandom, resilience, and the unexpected moments that make sports so captivating.

As plastic rats continue to cascade onto the ice in Florida, one thing is clear: this tradition is more than just an oddity; it’s a cherished chapter in the rich history of sports traditions. 

So, the next time you see a rat fly across the ice during a Panthers’ game, remember the story behind it—a tale of passion, determination, and the enduring spirit of hockey fandom. Thank you. 

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Benjamin Kenyon

With over eight years of experience in higher education, I bring a diverse skill set to the Head Men's Ice Hockey Coach role. My background spans collegiate hockey coaching, recruiting, compliance, budget management, game operations, public and media relations, marketing strategies, content development, social media management, press release distribution, broadcasting, video production, non-linear editing, sports photography, interpersonal communications, sports writing, interviewing, sports analytics, and statistics. My educational credentials include a Master of Arts in Sports Management, further enhancing my qualifications for this position. I am proficient in various software and platforms, including Adobe Creative Suite, social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, LinkedIn), and academic management systems (Salesforce, CAMS, Workday, Banner). My extensive experience and technical proficiency make me a well-rounded candidate for leading the men's ice hockey program.

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