Rats. You might see them in the subway, on the roads and, in the worst cases, your home.
But this spring, hockey fans are also seeing them on the ice, as the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Florida Panthers duel it out in the playoffs.
The Panthers’ rat craze is a nod to the 1995-96 season, when forward Scott Mellanby killed a live one with his stick in the locker room of the team’s former arena before going out and scoring two goals. That prompted goalie John Vanbiesbrouck to joke that Mellanby had scored a “rat trick.”
Fans began throwing toy rats onto the ice in celebration in the games that followed, and the Panthers — in just their third season in the league — made it all the way to the Stanley Cup finals.
After the season, the NHL changed its rules to say that teams could be assessed minor penalties for such outbursts.
Still, when the Panthers won against the Leafs in Game 3 on Sunday, fans threw plastic rats onto the rink in celebration, leading to some confusion among casual fans who were unaware of the rodent’s storied history with the team.
Strange? Perhaps. But the Panthers aren’t the only team with fans who throw weird projectiles onto the ice to celebrate, critique or taunt — here’s some others.
Toronto Maple Leafs
While not necessarily a tradition, the Leafs were subject to a not-so-sweet treat during the 2010-11 season: waffles.
The breakfast-food saga began Dec. 9 when a man threw a handful of waffles onto the ice after the Leafs lost to the Philadelphia Flyers. Someone tweeting under the name @EGGO_BOMBER, identifying himself only as Jack M., took responsibility for the ruckus and vowed to strike again, the Star reported at the time.
Then the waffle craze went West. At a game in Vancouver between the Canucks and the Leafs, Vancouver’s infamous green men taunted Leafs centre Tim Brent in the penalty box by tossing Eggos into the air in a frenzy.
At least one 31-year-old waffle-slinger was charged with mischief, who said he did it out of frustration with the team’s performance.
An Ivy League rivalry
Ivy League schools in the United States may be exclusive places to pursue an education, but they also come with strange traditions. Take Dartmouth and Princeton, for example, where tennis balls are thrown onto the ice when the former scores the first goal of the game against the latter.
SB Nation reports the tradition began in 1998 when a Princeton student threw a tennis ball at a Dartmouth goalie after the former’s first goal of the game. Since then, Dartmouth has thrown hundreds of tennis balls onto the ice in retaliation.
The ball tradition was so popular that in 2015, the school’s director of athletics and recreation issued a warning to students saying they should leave them at home or they would risk penalties for the team.
Detroit Red Wings
According to the Detroit Free Press, the origin of the “world-famous Detroit octopus throw” dates back to 1952 when, during the final series against the Montreal Canadiens, a fish market owner celebrated the Red Wings’ first goal by tossing an octopus onto the ice.
“The Wings won the game and the series, and (Pete) Cusimano reportedly claimed that his sacrificial octopus had influenced the outcome. Since then, Cusimano has shown up at every Wings home playoff game with an octopus, firing it iceward at the first Red Wing goal,” the paper wrote.
Despite officials trying to stop one of the most famous throwing-stuff-on-the-ice traditions, dubbed the Legend of the Octopus, the eight-armed creatures are still being smuggled into the arena — and surprisingly easily.
Nashville Predators fans have, according to The Tennessean, “been throwing catfish on the Bridgestone Arena ice long before the franchise became a Cup contender.”
In fact, the first reported catfish tossing occurred in 2013, but some say it dates back to a 1999 game against the Detroit Red Wings.
It wasn’t until 2017 when the catfish-tossing tradition made national headlines, though, when during the first game of the Stanley Cup finals, one fan tossed a catfish onto the ice in Pittsburgh.
The man, who became known as “Catfish Jake,” was escorted out by police and charged with disorderly conduct and a couple others which were later dropped.
The Teddy Bear Toss
The Teddy Bear Toss is a storied junior and minor league hockey tradition where fans bring bears and other stuffed toys to games to celebrate the first goal scored by the home team during the Christmas season.
The Kamloops Blazers started the trend in 1993, but it’s now a staple of teams throughout the Canadian Hockey League, even spreading to teams as far away as Australia and Sweden.
The Teddy Bear Toss also serves as a donation vehicle to hospitals and charities, with some players donating toys of their own.
The Hersey Bears, based in Hershey, Pa., claim the record of most stuffed animals tossed onto the ice during a single game, totalling more than 67,000.
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