NHL Moment: Goal & Rats


Well boys and girls, the offseason is winding down and only a few weeks sit between us and the new NHL season. Team Canada and Team USA have already opened their Olympic camps for the winter games in Sochi, Russia, and the wheels of the hockey world are beginning to turn. While only being about a month away from hockey, there is still not too much going on in the league, so we’re going to continue our look back at some of the best moments in the NHL’s past. For one of our last installments, we take a trip to South Florida to visit with one of the NHL’s youngest franchises and perhaps a fanbase’s most unique celebration.

The Lead Up:

The Florida Panthers are not the most prestigious NHL franchise to say the least. The team has been a perennial basement dweller with a sprinkling of success mixed in. The team’s most successful season by far was 1995-96. In fact, from the very beginning, it was clear that this season would be very different from years past. While preparing for their home opener against the Calgary Flames, a rat was running amuck in the Panthers locker room. As you could imagine it was probably a comical scene, until veteran Scott Mellanby showed the rat the business end of his hockey stick, shooting it across the room and killing it. That night, using the rat-murder weapon, Mellanby scored twp goals and the Panthers defeated the Flames, 4-3. After the game, All-Star Panthers goalie John Vanbiesbrouck referred to the locker room incident and Mellanby’s resulting game by saying, “He just missed the hat trick, but he got the rat trick.” Coincidentally, 1995 was the Chinese “year of the rat,” and South Florida was well onboard with that. After the Panthers scored a goal in their next game, a lone plastic rat was tossed to the ice by someone from the hometown crowd, and each home game and home goal after that, the amount of rats increased.

The Moment:

The Florida Panthers rode the wave of the rat all the way to the Stanley Cup Final that season. After every home goal for the Panthers, the fans would litter the ice with plastic rats, causing a long delay and opposing netminders to crouch inside their net for protection from the decorative rodents. Once in the Stanley Cup Final, the Panthers quickly went down 2-0 in their series against the Colorado Avalanche, before returning home for Game 3. This moment is a bittersweet one for Florida fans (both of them), because the largest rat toss that Florida ever saw happened on June 8, 1996 when Jamie Sheppard scored a goal to tie Game 3 at one. While at the peak of the playoff run/rat wave, thousands of plastic rats were tossed to the ice, causing an extended delay while 25 members of the stadium crew dressed up as Orkin Exterminators (Orkin paid a pretty penny for this sponsorship) picked up the rats. In his typical fiery and defiant nature, Avs’ Hall of Fame goalie Patrick Roy refused to take shelter in his net, and went as far as to speak to the team at intermission and declared “no more rats.” True to his word and fitting his illustrious career, Roy did not allow another goal the entire series as the Avalanche went on to sweep the Cinderella Panthers.

Remnants of the “Year of the Rat” can still be seen today during the rare occurrence that the Panthers make the playoffs. Every time the team wins a playoff game, you can still see a handful of plastic rats tossed to the ice at the end of the game. It seems that the extremely small die-hard fan base in Florida respects traditions as much as any other (albeit larger) fan base in the league.


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Pat Davis
Sports Activist for The Cover 4

Stanley Cup Final Preview – Boston Bruins vs. Chicago Blackhawks

Stanley Cup Final 2013 Boston Bruins vs. Chicago Blackhawksbruins-vs-blackhawks

  • Game 1-Wed June 12 Boston @ Chicago 8 p.m. (EST) NBC
  • Game 2-Sat June 15 Boston @ Chicago 8 p.m. (EST) NBCSN
  • Game 3-Mon June 17 Chicago @ Boston 8 p.m. (EST) NBCSN
  • Game 4-Wed June 19 Chicago @ Boston 8 p.m. (EST) NBC
  • Game 5-Sat June 22 Boston @ Chicago 8 p.m. (EST) NBC
  • Game 6-Mon June 24 Chicago @ Boston 8 p.m. (EST) NBC
  • Game 7-Wed June 26 Boston @ Chicago 8 p.m. (EST) NBC

Here we are hockey fans; the Series is upon us. Today, the Stanley Cup Final gets started in Chicago and, as hockey fans, we should be in for a treat. Both teams enter the series on incredible tears with Chicago going 7-1 in its last 8 games, and Boston boasting a 9-1 record in its last 10 contests. Both teams were top choices from the outset of the season to make it this far, but the paths have been very unique. Chicago is fresh off of a President’s Trophy-winning regular season, and is primed to cause damage to the scoreboard in the Final. Boston will have an idea of its own, fresh off its shockingly dominant sweep of the mighty Pittsburgh Penguins. Let’s take a look at some keys to this series and what to anticipate.

1. These Teams Are Good

Obviously at this point of the season it goes without saying that the two best teams are left standing. Both teams have been nearly unstoppable in the playoffs, and for good reason. They are both built to win now. Both teams feature great coaching in Claude Julien for Boston and Joel Quenneville for Chicago. Both coaches were the coaches for these teams the last time each won the Stanley Cup, so they are battle tested. Although neither team’s goaltender has won the Cup as a starter, both have been fantastic this year, and both will look to continue to excel in the Final. Also, both teams will roll four lines throughout the series, and rely on depth scoring to lift the silver challis at the end of the series.

2. The Bad Boys

Boston did a great job last series of using physical play, and the mental challenges that accompany it, to its advantage last round against Pittsburgh. Entering the series, one of the questions was how Pittsburgh’s stars would respond to the in-your-face physical style that the Bruins play, and the answer was loud and clear: two goals in four games for the mighty Penguins. Players like Shawn Thorton, Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton and Brad Marchand goaded the Pens into bad penalties and loss of focus at times, and you can believe they will look to do the same to Chicago’s stars. That is why the aforementioned players for the Bruins, and their counterparts in Chicago will be huge factors in the outcome of this series. Guys like Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw will have to walk that thin line that, as agitators, they always walk. The Penguins did not have an answer for the Bruins, but Chicago might. Shaw and Bickell will have to keep their cool and try and get under the big boys for Boston’s skin, without taking bad penalties. It should be one of the more interesting “game within the games” of this series.

3. Star Power vs. Team Power

Like the Penguins, Chicago boasts elite high end talent with the likes of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp in the lineup, and like with the Penguins, Boston will have to have a direct gameplan to shut these guys down. The first key is to not put the star power on the power play, and when they do, if Boston can blank the Hawks on the PP as they did with Pittsburgh. That will go a long way to helping the B’s win. Boston may not lean on one particular player, but they certainly rely on a team and getting contributions from up and down the lineup. The Penguins and Rangers had no answer for the Lucic-David Krejci-Horton line, but the Bruins still relied on the likes of Patrice Bergeron, Torey Krug and Adam McQuaid to advance. Look for Boston to implement a similar game plan against Chicago to neutralize its stars.

4. Goaltending, Goaltending

At this point, I am not sure why we even talk about it, but it is too crucial to not mention. Both goalies have their name on the Stanley Cup already, but neither was the starting goalie when their respective teams won. Tuukka Rask would love to take over this series as some feel he did against Pittsburgh last round, but I feel that Boston’s defensive gameplan and execution were a bigger factor than Rask’s goaltending last series. There is no doubt he will have to be as good as he has been, if not better, to stop Chicago. Corey Crawford played behind Antti Niemi when Chicago won the Stanley Cup in 2010, and has had a sensational season this year, but many are claiming it is because of the team in front of him. This will be his moment to prove that he is The Man, especially with making a dominant Jonathan Quick look fairly pedestrian last series versus Los Angeles a not so distant memory. It will presumably be a close, tight checking series in which the first goal will be HUGE in every game. There will be no room for error for either netminder and this will nearly certainly be the difference maker in this series.



Chicago is not the Pittsburgh Penguins, and are the President’s Trophy winners for a reason. Its speed, skill, and grit will be too much for the Bruins to handle. Chicago in six.

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