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Weekend Of The Rat Gets Started

Friday, 07.27.2007 / 7:30 AM / 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.
UPCOMING EVENTS

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - BOS 82 54 19 9 261 177 117
2 y - PIT 82 51 24 7 249 207 109
3 x - TBL 82 46 27 9 240 215 101
4 x - MTL 82 46 28 8 215 204 100
5 x - NYR 82 45 31 6 218 193 96
6 x - PHI 82 42 30 10 236 235 94
7 x - CBJ 82 43 32 7 231 216 93
8 x - DET 82 39 28 15 222 230 93
9 WSH 82 38 30 14 235 240 90
10 NJD 82 35 29 18 197 208 88
11 OTT 82 37 31 14 236 265 88
12 TOR 82 38 36 8 231 256 84
13 CAR 82 36 35 11 207 230 83
14 NYI 82 34 37 11 225 267 79
15 FLA 82 29 45 8 196 268 66
16 BUF 82 21 51 10 157 248 52

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
N. Bjugstad 76 16 22 -14 38
S. Upshall 76 15 22 1 37
B. Campbell 82 7 30 -6 37
B. Boyes 78 21 15 -6 36
S. Bergenheim 62 16 13 -16 29
J. Huberdeau 69 9 19 -5 28
T. Fleischmann 80 8 20 -18 28
T. Gilbert 73 3 25 -5 28
B. Pirri 49 13 12 6 25
A. Barkov 54 8 16 -3 24
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 25 23 7 .919 2.40
S. Clemmensen 6 7 1 .896 3.09
 
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