Why You Want Florida Panthers To Win Wild Card

The Florida Panthers sit three points behind the Boston Bruins for a wild card berth in the Eastern Conference playoffs.  If they make it we could see a fantastically unique tradition reborn.

The Florida Panthers have slowly and steadily built themselves into an Eastern Conference playoff contender and with young players like Aaron Ekblad, Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad they should contend for years to come.  These players likely don’t remember much if anything about the 1995-96 team that made the Stanley Cup Finals.  As such the date October 8th, 1995 is likely just another day.  But if this quartet knows their fan base well they could witness first hand what could be the most incredible show of fandom in the NHL.

It was on that October night the Florida Panthers were preparing to take on the Calgary Flames.  Before the opening face-off a rat made its way into the Panthers locker room where it met forward and former captain Scott Mellanby whom sprung into action, grabbing his stick and one-timing said rodent against the wall and killing it.  That night Mellanby went on to pot a pair of goals which prompted goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck to proclaim that Mellanby had  “scored a rat trick.”.

Well hockey players may be trumped in their superstition only by hockey fans.  Over the course of the next few games fans began to toss fake rats upon the ice.  At first it was only a few.  But quickly Florida Panthers fans took to the story of Mellanby and the rat and made it legend.  For the rest of the season and into the playoffs fans invoked the ‘plastic plague’ and gave rats the most attention they have had since the years of the Black Death in Europe centuries earlier.

You know you are on to something when the organization jumps on the bandwagon and finds a sponsorship opportunity in something like this.  My favorite part about the tradition is how it grew organically and took on a life of its own.  Why should only hats be thrown on the ice for tradition?  It’s difficult to show patience for your chance to throw a hat in today’s game with less offense.  Panthers fans jumped on every opportunity to rain down the ‘plastic plague’ and I loved every minute of it.

With all due respect to the Detroit Red Wings and the octopus I want to see thousands of plastic rats glide across the ice at the BB&T Center.  It’s a lot easier to pull off for starters.  It doesn’t need carrying a slimy, live ocean creature from the car through security and to your seats.  A plastic rat is readily available and fits in your pocket neatly.  And it’s easier to throw!

So keep winning, Florida Panthers!  Catch the Boston Bruins and get into the playoffs.  Because when Game Three of your series comes all NHL fans regardless of their rooting interests will have the chance to witness the rebirth of tradition started nearly twenty years ago by a man with a stick and quick wrists.  Perhaps that tradition could be continued by Phil Kessel if you believe the trade rumors linking the fire sale in Toronto to Florida.  The thought of Kessel scoring a goal for the Panthers in the playoffs, dodging thousands of rats then giving his reaction of it post-game could be the best video of the year in the NHL.  Until that point we are left to hope.  Hope that the Florida Panthers can make up the three points on the Boston Bruins.  Hope that fans will fill the BB&T Arena ready to cheer and loose like a relief pitcher just waiting to come into the game.  Hope that the legend of a former captain can live on through the next wave of young Panthers talent.

Thank you, Scott Mellanby, for the “rat trick”.  May the Panthers plague rise again.