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This Day In Hockey History-November 10, 1995-Florida Panthers Usher in Year of the Rat

Florida Panthers Rats

MIAMI (AP) — For the , it's the Year of the Rat.

Ever since left wing Scott Mellanby spotted a rat crawling among equipmentbhags before the first home game of the season and used his hockey stick to slap the poor creature across the locker room to it's demise, Florida has been on a roll.

Fans at Miami Arena, copying Detroit's ritual, have taken to throwing rubber onto the ice whenever the Panthers score. The locker room has been renamed the “Rat's Nest.” and 12-4 Florida is in first place in the tough Atlantic Division.

Florida Panthers Rats

It's the kind of rodent fever the players didn't mind catching.

“It's a nice ,” said first-year Doug MacLean. “Let's hope they (fans) get to do it in May and June.”

Quipped goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck: “If it was in the old Boston Garden, they would be throwing real rats.”

Florida Panthers Rats

Few gave MacLean a chance this year with the third-year team.

MacLean was intent on bringing several young players aboard and overhauling the Panthers' trapping defense. There was also some bitterness that coach had been unceremoniously let go at the end of last season — the second straight the team ended up missing the by one point.

Yet, somehow the coach has meshed the old and new into a formidable NHL team. The Panthers offensive attack is almost unrecognizable from its dump-and-chase expansion days; passing is exact and the team swarms opposing .

Florida Panthers Rats
Colorado Avalance goalie is resigned to a barrage of rats thrown by fans after the Florida Panthers scored a goal in the first period of the 3rd game of the Finals in Miami Saturday, June 8, 1996. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

“I didn't figure this is where we would be,” MacLean said. “It's encouraging. The players are working really hard. I certainly didn't expect it.” '

Tampa Bay coach Terry Crisp said after losing to Florida 4-1 on Sunday night that the Panthers still play good defense.

“They're much better than what people gave them credit for last year. Quicker, faster, but they still have that same discipline tendency that Roger Neilson instilled in them,” Crisp said.

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