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Where the Rat Was Won: The Origin of the Florida Panthers and their Rodents

Rats3BY GEORGE RICHARDS grichards@MiamiHerald.com

TWITTER: @OnFrozenPond

NEWARK, N.J. -- The Panthers may not have many traditions as a franchise, but the one they do is pretty cool.

Why is the tossing of rubber rats so well received? 

It's unique for one. And it wasn't some marketing scheme that caught on. One fan started it, it caught on and now it's part of the franchise's legacy. 

You have an Octopus, we have a rat.

And here's how it all began:

Published: Monday, October 9, 1995; The Miami Herald
Section: SPORTS
Page: 4D


Herald Sports Writer

BeezerratScott Mellanby scored three goals in Sunday night's 4-3 victory over the Calgary Flames.

You only saw two of them.

The first one took place in the locker room before the game. The Panthers were dressing for the game when a big, ugly rat came scampering among the equipment bags.

Not missing a beat, Mellanby grabbed a stick and one-timed the poor creature against the wall. End of rat.

"He looked like Seve Ballesteros," said Panthers goalie John Vanbiesbrouck, describing Mellanby's rat-smacking form.

RatspensMellanby, of course, went on to score two slightly more conventional goals in the first period of Sunday night's game. He had a few more chances during the rest of the game, but couldn't convert another.

And so Mellanby still has never scored a hat trick in his 10-year career, and the Panthers have never had one in their history.

"Yeah," joked Vanbiesbrouck, "but he scored a rat trick."

Mellanby's two goals were almost picture-perfect twins. Both came in the first period. Both answered Calgary goals and tied the score. Both came on power plays. And both were on deflections.

The first came on a blast by Magnus Svensson from the left point, the second on a shot by Jason Woolley from just inside the blue line.

The Panthers' point men have taken the coaching staff's advice and are firing away from the point on power plays to make things happen.

Ratisfaction"Woolley was teeing it up from everywhere," Panthers Coach Doug MacLean said. "Gord Murphy, Svensson -- they all did a great job, and Mellanby scored on two nice deflections."

Eleven times in club history, a Panthers player had scored two goals in a game. And 11 times, they failed to get the hat trick.

But when Mellanby scored his second -- with 3 1/2 minutes remaining in the first period -- he admits the thought crossed his mind.

"When you score two in the first period like that, you think about it," Mellanby said. "I've never had one in my career, unfortunately."

And he had his chances. On another power play in the second period, he took a feed from Murphy in the slot and found himself open, but he didn't get off a good shot. On the same power play, he took another feed from Rob Niedermayer outside the crease, but missed the empty side of the net.

"I should have buried that one," Mellanby said. "I guess that shows it wasn't meant to be."

By converting two of his three shots-on-goal, Mellanby seems to have put his scoring jinx of 1994 behind him. Last year, he led the team in shots but was just third in scoring. He converted only 10 percent of his shots. At times, he got frustrated.

This year was almost guaranteed to be different. MacLean put him on a line with the rejuvenated Niedermayer and the talented rookie Radek Dvorak.

RatsGame2a"Those guys are both extremely talented players," Mellanby  said. "I'm sure I'll get my chances."

That line got shut out Sunday night, but Mellanby made up for it with his power play goals.