Fans litter the ice with plastic rats following the Florida Panthers win. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Why do Florida Panthers fans throw rats onto the ice after they win? The tradition goes back several decades with a memorable origin.

During the Florida Panthers‘ run to their first Stanley Cup Final in 1996, plastic rats on the ice after their goals became a tradition.

It started when Scott Mellanby killed a rat with his stick in the locker room before scoring two goals in a game. Panthers’ goalie, John Vanbiesbrouck, joked that he had completed a “rat trick.”

Panthers fans started throwing plastic rats on the ice after the team scored. It led to the Panthers partnering with Orkin, a pest control company, to have men in exterminator gear clear the rink.

According to Sports Illustrated, the Panthers tracked how many rats were thrown that season and estimated the cost to be $55,000, or nearly $100,000 adjusted for inflation.

Why do Florida Panthers fans throw rats onto the ice?

The NHL outlawed the practice following every goal after the Cup Final, but fans adjusted to throwing the rats after wins.

Former Panthers captain Brian Skrudland said it was a bit of folklore that the team rallied around.

ESPN did a video on the Year of the Rat, and Mellanby said it was his place in history.

Plastic rats symbolized the team’s success, but in the 1996 Stanley Cup Final, they may have cost them the championship.

In Game 3, Rob Niedermayer scored the first goal, and fans threw plastic rats onto the ice. When Ray Sheppard scored to make it 2-0, some of the rats hit the mask of Avalanche goalie Patrick Roy. He vowed it would be the last rat thrown on the ice. He was right.

The Avalanche won Game 3-2 and clinched the Cup in Game 4 with a 1-0 victory in triple-overtime. Roy won his third out of four Stanley Cups. He made 63 saves in the shutout victory.

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