Viktor E. Rat runs on the ice after the Florida Panthers win (Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Florida Panthers brought back the plastic rats for Thursday’s game, and while it made for some great post-goal celebrations for the home fans, it also led to the Panthers being penalized twice in the third period for objects being thrown on the ice.
The Florida Panthers’ ‘Rat Trick’ is a tradition like no other, and it was back in action Thursday night.
Ahead of the Panthers’ contest against the New Jersey Devils, the first 10,000 fans were given plastic rats to commemorate Florida’s unimaginable Stanley Cup final run in 1995-96. As could be expected, following the Panthers’ first goal of the game, which came in the second period thanks to a nice move by Jonathan Huberdeau, fans tossed the plastic rats onto the ice in celebration:
Fans and players alike didn’t seem too annoyed by the celebration, but the referees made it clear that this was a one-time-only thing. Following Huberdeau’s goal, an in-arena announcement told fans that any subsequent tosses made by fans in celebration or otherwise could result in ejection from the game. Maybe they should have also warned of the possibility for penalty to the Panthers, too. The rest of the frame would go by without incident, but three minutes into the third period Huberdeau scored again and out came the rats.
This time the Cats were whistled for delay of game for objects thrown on the ice by the home fans. While it may seem unfair when there’s situations like the post-hat trick hat tossing or the octopi thrown at Detroit Red Wings games, the difference is the hat trick hats have almost been grandfathered in while the throwing of the octopus happens pre-game, between periods or after a goal, but one octopus is a lot easier to get off the ice than a few hundred plastic rats.
Again, after Aleksander Barkov scored with two minutes remaining, Florida’s crowd threw the rats onto the ice and for the second time on the night the Panthers were penalized for delay of game for the rats being tossed on the ice. Post-game, Florida made their concerns about the rat-throwing clear, with coach Gerard Gallant saying the home fans need to think twice about throwing anything on the ice during this final stretch of the regular season.
"They called it like they're supposed to call it,” Gallant said, via NHL.com’s Alain Poupart. "There's nothing they can do. When we throw stuff on the ice, it's been a rule for a long time, we've got to know better than that. I sure hope it doesn't happen again because we're battling for a playoff spot and we're trying to kill penalties and working hard and when we're throwing stuff on the ice and we know we're going to get a penalty, we've got to be smarter than that.”
It's hard to say if the rats will make a return for the post-season, but if Panthers fans do decide to bring the rubber rodents into the building come playoff time, the hope in Florida has to be that fans can hang on until after a Panthers win to toss the rats onto the ice. Otherwise the Panthers could be facing a delay of game penalty, and one can only imagine how upset the team would be if they were to lose a playoff series thanks to rubber rats being thrown on the ice.