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Weekend Of The Rat Gets Started

Friday, 07.27.2007 / 7:30 AM ET / News
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Weekend Of The Rat Gets Started
By Dave Joseph for floridapanthers.com

“Came to see friends/Walk old streets again/Grab a bit and beer by the sea/Don’t it seem funny/word gets around/I heard I was in town.” Jimmy Buffett.

 
They slowly made their way Thursday afternoon to South Florida.
 
From Kamloops to Peterborough, from Newfoundland to Detroit, members of the 1996 Panthers, the team that went to the Stanley Cup finals under a shower of toy rats, arrived in town to take part in this weekend’s ‘Weekend of the Rat’ reunion at BankAtlantic Center.
 
“It’s going to be a great time,” said Brian Skrudland, the Panthers’ original captain. “A lot of these guys haven’t seen each other since those years.”
 
And then, with a smile creasing his face, Skrudland added, “And it’s going to be great for the fans to see all the shapes, sizes and new hair styles of the players.”
 
Players arrived Thursday at the Seminole Hard Rock for a reception. The ’96 team will play against other Panther alumni at 3 p.m., Saturday at the BankAtlantic Center.
 
The ’96 Panthers, in just their third season in the NHL, shocked the sports world by making it to the finals after playoff-round victories against the Bruins, Flyers and Penguins despite being huge underdogs in every round.
 
Each goal was celebrated by fans showering the team with toy rats in response to Scott Mellanby killing a rat in the locker room early in the season.
 
“I don’t think anyone took us seriously until they played us once,” said goalie John Vanbiesbrouck. “It was really a special season and we had a special relationship with the fans.”
 
Dave Lowry, who scored 10 goals during the ’96 playoffs, recalled walking from the old Miami Arena to the parking lot across the street and having a line of fans waiting for autographs.
 
“We’d stop for 45 minutes and sign autographs,” Lowry said. “But we enjoyed reaching out to the fans. We believed it was part of our job. And the fans were great.”
 
Goalie Mark Fitzpatrick, who won 15 games during the 1995-96 season and was 9-1-1 in his first 11 starts, arrived from his summer home in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Fitzpatrick, who winters in Port St. Lucie and spends his time raising his two daughters, says going to the Stanley Cup finals was an “experience of a lifetime.”
 
“I think as we were beating Boston and Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, everyone except us thought we’d get beat,” Fitzpatrick said. “But we believed we could knock any team out.”
 
Fitzpatrick said the item he treasures most from the 1995-96 season is a team picture. “It’s everyone with the (Prince of Wales) trophy for winning the Eastern Conference,” he said. “That’s something you can look at each and every day.”
 
Lance Pitlick, a Panther defenseman from 1999-02 who will be one of the alumni playing against the ’96 team, said he was excited about being part of the reunion game.
 
“I think it’s an awesome gesture toward these players for the dedication they put into the game and it’s going to be great for the fans,” Pitlick said.

SCHEDULE

HOME
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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