Panthers no longer selling toy rats at home games
By TIM REYNOLDS
CORAL SPRINGS, Floida (AP) The rats can still fly - when appropriate - at Florida Panthers ice hockey games. They just won't be for sale there anymore.
And the team says opposing fans are to blame.
Florida announced on Monday it will no longer sell the plastic toys for $5 apiece at BankAtlantic Center, starting immediately. The reason: Fans are throwing them at the wrong times.
"This is a result of visiting fans throwing rats on the ice during the game," Panthers President Michael Yormark wrote on Twitter.
By the way, the plastic rats aren't facing extinction. They're still for sale at the team's practice facility, near where they play home games.
"It's a tradition here," Panthers center Stephen Weiss said.
It's all a nod to the 1995-96 NHL season, when Florida went to the Stanley Cup finals. The Panthers encourage fans to toss the toys after victories, and hundreds of them dotted the ice surface after the Panthers' most recent win.
The so-called "Rat Trick" started when Scott Mellanby used his stick to exterminate one in the Panthers' dressing room before a game nearly two decades ago, then went out and scored two goals that night. It fast became part of Panthers' lore.
A couple of dozen rats have usually hit the ice after goals in Florida's building during the playoffs series with the New Jersey Devils, whom the Panthers lead 3-2 heading into Game 6 in Newark on Tuesday. Workers scoop them up and play has restarted quickly each time - followed by reminders that the Panthers could be subjected to a two-minute penalty for delay of game, and that the rat-tossers may be ejected.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has reached out to the Panthers to discuss pace of play, and some Devils were upset when at least one of the toys was on the ice in the final minute of Florida's 3-0 win in Game 5 on Saturday.
"During the play, it's got to stop, definitely," Weiss said. "At the same time, it could be New Jersey fans doing it as well. So it is what it is. It takes two seconds, you clean them up. But I like it."
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Updated April 24, 2012