In most cases the term “Rain of Rats” is not meant positively.
Unless you’re in South Florida. And specifically at a Florida Panthers game.
Those caveats point to the appearance of rodents — at least the plastic kind — as exceptional good thing Hockey watchers may have noticed rats flying around a Florida rink this postseason.
Confused as to why? Allow us to explain.
The Panthers — who will face the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2023 Stanley Cup Final — have a history with the Rat since the franchise’s first Cup Final appearance in 1996. That also happened in Florida’s opening season. kept for one of the organization’s long-standing traditions: its fans throwing plastic mice onto the ice to celebrate goals of all things.
It started in the opening game of the season when Florida played at the Miami Arena. Forward Scott Mellonby had to kill a rat with his stick before puck drop that night, and he later scored two goals in the Panthers’ 4-3 win over Calgary. Goaltender John Vanbiesbroek joked after the game that Mellonby’s feat was a “rat trick” and dubbed the season the Year of the Rat.
(Fun fact: 1996 is also the year of the rat in the Chinese zodiac calendar).
Florida’s faithful picked up the trend and bought plastic mice — at gas stations, convenience stores or even the rink — tossed onto the ice after Panthers goals. That lasted until Florida’s run to the ’96 Cup Final against Colorado. The Panthers were swept by a blizzard in that series — souring the ability to throw a few mice in luck — and then the NHL outright banned the move, citing severe delays needed to clear the ice.
Despite the ban, plastic mice have found their way from the stands onto the ice over the years. In 2007, Panthers alumni sold mice to raise money for the Florida Panthers Foundation. In 2011-12, when Florida made the playoffs for the first time in a decade, the Rats returned (though the team stopped selling them at the arena). In the short years since, Florida has tried to keep a spark from tradition in the game, with the 2014 Victor E. It came up with a secondary mascot named Rat.
The Panthers’ recent improvements — including three straight playoff berths, the President’s Trophy last season and a trip to the Cup Final this season — wouldn’t be a huge shock to put the Rats in the lead again. Through thick and thin, plastic rats are part of Florida’s lore.
So the next time you see it in the air or on the snow, don’t panic. This (more than likely) means something good is going on for the home team.