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Rat flinging: What is the odd celebration from Florida Panthers fans?

Yep, it's a thing.
Credit: AP
Florida Panthers center Carter Verhaeghe (23) is congratulated by left wing Ryan Lomberg (94) and center Aleksi Heponiemi (20) after scoring a goal during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Monday, May 10, 2021, in Sunrise, Fla. The Panthers won 4-0. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

SUNRISE, Fla. β€” If you're keeping up with the Florida Panthers for the first time in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year, there's something you've likely had questions about – rats.

Not the real-life rodents that can give you a good scare or cause concern if spotted in you're home. We're talking about the rubber kind that have become synonymous with the NHL team's goal celebrations.

A few scattered the ice during Sunday's Game 1 face-off between the Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning but the display was a mere glimpse compared to other rat sightings.

To get you up to pace, we'll have to take a trip down memory lane to the Panthers' 1995-96 hockey season when the ice was seemingly overrun by the rodents.

According to the team, that year was deemed the "Year of the Rat" after Scott Mellanby killed a rat in the team's locker room prior to the home opener. He later went on to score two goals and the term "rat trick" was born.

Ever since, fans have flung the rubber rats onto the ice in celebration every time the Panthers scored a goal.

But nothing can compare to the team's first-period goal of Game 1 of its only appearance in the Stanley Cup Final when the fake rodents rained down in the thousands on the ice in celebration. 

The NHL reports the team had 25 people out cleaning the rats off the ice on game day as they were scooped up and seen spilling out of trash bags.

Rat flinging once again caught the hockey world's eye in 2016 when the team was given a delay of game penalty due to cleanup efforts halting the progress of a game. It's a rule the NHL added years ago and applies to all teams.

Fans are also regularly reminded to "hold on to [their] rats" until the end of the game in an effort to keep things on track. 

The friendly reminder is typically displayed on the BB&T Center's Jumbotron but that doesn't guarantee overzealous fans follow the rules.

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