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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 WSH 50 37 9 4 163 112 78
2 FLA 51 31 15 5 141 112 67
3 NYR 52 29 18 5 148 134 63
4 TBL 51 29 18 4 137 118 62
5 BOS 51 27 18 6 149 136 60
6 DET 52 26 18 8 130 131 60
7 NJD 53 26 20 7 119 120 59
8 NYI 50 26 18 6 135 126 58
9 PIT 50 25 18 7 129 128 57
10 CAR 53 24 21 8 129 141 56
11 PHI 50 23 18 9 119 130 55
12 MTL 53 25 24 4 142 142 54
13 OTT 52 23 23 6 142 164 52
14 TOR 50 19 22 9 116 134 47
15 BUF 52 21 26 5 119 137 47
16 CBJ 54 21 28 5 135 168 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Jagr 48 16 21 12 37
J. Huberdeau 51 10 27 11 37
A. Barkov 41 15 19 13 34
J. Jokinen 51 9 24 12 33
V. Trocheck 51 17 15 4 32
R. Smith 51 16 15 12 31
B. Pirri 47 10 13 -4 23
A. Ekblad 47 10 12 23 22
B. Campbell 51 4 15 17 19
N. Bjugstad 36 9 8 -3 17
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 23 13 4 .930 2.11
A. Montoya 8 2 1 .931 1.93

 
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