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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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PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 51 38 9 4 166 114 80
2 FLA 53 31 16 6 143 118 68
3 NYR 53 30 18 5 150 135 65
4 TBL 52 29 19 4 138 123 62
5 BOS 52 28 18 6 151 137 62
6 DET 53 27 18 8 133 131 62
7 PIT 52 27 18 7 138 132 61
8 NYI 51 27 18 6 143 127 60
9 NJD 54 26 21 7 120 122 59
10 CAR 54 24 21 9 130 142 57
11 MTL 54 26 24 4 143 143 56
12 OTT 54 25 23 6 153 166 56
13 PHI 51 23 19 9 121 133 55
14 BUF 53 21 26 6 120 139 48
15 TOR 51 19 23 9 117 140 47
16 CBJ 54 21 28 5 135 168 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Jagr 50 16 21 11 37
J. Huberdeau 53 10 27 9 37
A. Barkov 43 16 19 13 35
J. Jokinen 53 10 25 11 35
V. Trocheck 53 17 16 3 33
R. Smith 53 16 15 10 31
B. Pirri 49 10 13 -5 23
A. Ekblad 49 10 12 20 22
B. Campbell 53 4 16 16 20
N. Bjugstad 38 9 8 -4 17
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 23 13 5 .930 2.13
A. Montoya 8 3 1 .929 2.01

 
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