The Florida Panthers celebrated the 20-year anniversary of the infamous “rat trick” incident in which Scott Mellanby reportedly killed a rat with his stick in the locker room before going out and scoring two goals back in 1995-96 by handing out 10,000 fake rats to fans in attendance for their game against New Jersey.
Eager to relive the insane days of old where there were lengthy delays due to plastic rats on the ice, Panthers fans caused two stoppages by chucking the rats on the ice after the Panthers scored. Those stoppages earned the Panthers two delay of game penalties.
Here’s a look back at the 1995-96 season in which the rat trick was at its height:
And here’s what happened when the Panthers scored on the night honoring the rat trick.
Fans were warned that the team could face a penalty should rats keep flying on the ice, but that didn’t stop them from throwing more on the ice after the team’s second goal. The end result was a delay of game penalty on the Panthers.
That’s bad enough, but even after the team received a penalty for fans throwing rats on the ice, it happened again. The Panthers went up 3-1 and the fans tossed more rats which resulted in another penalty.
The Panthers won 3-2, but the fans placed the Panthers in a tough spot by giving the team four additional minutes on the penalty kill.
Following the game, Jaromir Jagr spoke about how frustrated he was with the officials.
#FlaPanthers Jaromir Jagr said he was upset at officials on Rat Delay…said games are too important to penalize teams for actions of fans
— George Richards (@GeorgeRichards) April 1, 2016
Though the Panthers didn’t agree with the actions of the fans, the players pointed out that this sets a potentially dangerous precedent. What’s to stop opposing fans from throwing items on the ice just to get the home team penalized? Where is the line drawn? Why haven’t the Detroit Red Wings been penalized when an octopus makes its way on the ice? It may be an issue of the quantity of rats which were thrown, but technically any object could cause a delay of game penalty.
Also, what did the Panthers expect to happen here? By paying tribute to the rat trick with the exact object fans used to toss on the ice, you’re more or less encouraging the behavior.
Hopefully this is where the story ends. The rat trick was fun back in the day, but now the home team is being penalized. Things won’t be as fun if the Panthers were to bow out of the playoffs because fans penalized the team.