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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.

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 252 192 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 221 189 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 262 211 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 242 203 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 252 230 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 235 221 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 238 215 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 221 210 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 213 211 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 206 223 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 236 250 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 215 234 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 181 216 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 188 226 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 211 262 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 161 274 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Huberdeau 79 15 39 10 54
J. Jokinen 81 8 36 -2 44
N. Bjugstad 72 24 19 -7 43
A. Ekblad 81 12 27 12 39
B. Boyes 78 14 24 11 38
A. Barkov 71 16 20 -4 36
J. Hayes 72 19 16 -4 35
B. Campbell 82 3 24 4 27
B. Pirri 49 22 2 6 24
D. Bolland 53 6 17 4 23
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 28 19 12 .921 2.35
A. Montoya 6 7 2 .892 3.01
 
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