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Panthers Announce Reunion of '96 Team

Tuesday, 05.15.2007 / 8:25 PM ET / News
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Panthers Announce Reunion of \'96 Team
by Dave Joseph for floridapanthers.com

Rats.

They were big and small, rubber and plastic. Some simply squeaked while others were dressed in uniforms…so intricately tweaked.

The Panthers took the sports world by storm in 1996 when they went to the Stanley Cup Finals while being showered each night by toy rats. It was magical. It was bizarre.

It was Seussian.

Former Panther Paul Laus described the season as “surreal.” Star goalie John Vanbiesbrouck remembers it as a “cherished time.”

And now for the first time the 1996 Panthers are reuniting for a very special weekend here in South Florida and BankAtlantic Center.

Vanbiesbrouck, Laus, Scott Mellanby, Billy Lindsay, Ray Sheppard, Gord Murphy, Ed Jovanovski, Terry Carkner and Geoff Smith are just some of the former Panthers who will attend the ’96 Panthers Reunion scheduled for July 26-29.

Presented by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, the reunion will include an Alumni Hockey Game July 28 at BankAtlantic Center. The game will be part of an Open House that will include family activities, games, autograph sessions, and a scrimmage between the ’96 Panthers and other Panther alumni from the past 13 seasons.

Tickets are $5 for the alumni game. But lucky Panther fans can get free tickets now by calling (954) 835-PUCK……Fans interested in purchasing seats along the glass can call 954-835-PUCK.

The story of the ’96 Panthers begins in October of 1995 when Mellanby one-timed a rat into rodent heaven before a home game at the Miami Arena after the furry creature found his way into the Panther’ locker room. Some three hours later, after Mellanby scored two goals to help the Panthers to a 4-3 victory over Calgary, Vanbiesbrouck credited Mellanby with scoring the “Rat Trick.”

And the Year of the Rat was born.

After each Panther goal the remainder of the season, fans would shower the ice with toy rats. There were only a few thrown onto the ice at the beginning. Then a dozen, a hundred, a thousand, and then a blizzard of creatures raining down as opposing goaltenders took cover inside their own goal.

Toy stores ran out of rats. Scalpers not only sold tickets outside the Miami Arena but toy rats.

“Six dollars for one rat,” Laus recalled. “I remember people telling me they were asking relatives to ship them rats from out of town.”

The Panthers were led by a mixture of veterans like Vanbiesbrouck, Mellanby, Brian Skrudland, Dave Lowry and Mike Hough and younger players like Jovanovski, Rhett Warrener and Rob Niedermayer. They defeated the Bruins in the quarterfinals, Flyers in semifinals and then Mario Lemieux in the Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals to win the Prince of Wales Trophy and a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.

The alumni game, along with other weekend activities including a golf tournament and welcome reception, will raise funds to support Florida Panthers Alumni Association, which is dedicated to developing Youth Hockey Travel opportunities.

SCHEDULE

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AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Jagr 79 27 39 23 66
J. Jokinen 81 18 42 25 60
A. Barkov 66 28 31 18 59
J. Huberdeau 76 20 39 17 59
V. Trocheck 76 25 28 15 53
R. Smith 82 25 25 19 50
A. Ekblad 78 15 21 18 36
N. Bjugstad 67 15 19 -8 34
B. Campbell 82 6 25 31 31
B. Pirri 52 11 13 -4 24
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 35 19 6 .922 2.35
A. Montoya 12 7 3 .919 2.18

 
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