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Rats and Cats: Panthers, Predators Fans Have Quirky Traditions

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When it comes to bizarre habits, fans of the Florida Panthers and Nashville Predators have something in common: They both like throwing weird things onto the ice.

When it comes to the Panthers, at least their trinkets are made of rubber.

In Florida, we know all about the tradition of throwing rats on the ice after a victory.

Back during the 1995-96, fans threw them following Florida goals. The NHL changed the rules and, now, if those rats were tossed during a game, the home team would be assessed a delay of game penalty following a warning.

It has happened.

But why rats?

In Florida’s opening game of the 1995-96 season, a rat appeared in the cramped Florida dressing room at the old Miami Arena.

Scott Mellanby slammed the rodent against the wall with his stick, causing its demise.

Mellanby scored two goals against Calgary that night, prompting John Vanbiesbrouck to quip, “he scored a rat trick.” 

In the following weeks, rats began to fly.

In Nashville, the tradition is to throw catfish on the ice during pregame, although it has expanded to selected post-goal situations.

The only caveat pregame is to be careful not to hit the anthem singer.

Legend believes this bizarre custom is a spinoff of the long-standing Detroit ritual of throwing octopi on the ice before Red Wings games.

This supposedly originated back in the early fifties. The eight arms of an octopus coincide with the eight games required at the time to win the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Supposedly, when the Predators entered the league in 1998, a large part of their fan base consisted of transplanted Detroiters working in Tennessee auto plants.

Exactly who threw the first catfish – a popular dining favorite — and when it happened is subject to debate.

It depends on who you ask or what you read.

Local restaurant owner Bob Wolf claimed to have tossed the first one during a Detroit visit to Nashville in the inaugural 1998-99 season. 

 Another claim is that in 2002, out of nowhere, a catfish flew over the glass and onto the ice during a mid-season game.

The Predators were playing the Red Wings was no coincidence.

Nashville won the game, and a tradition appears to have been born.

However, another claim is that it happened during the Predators first playoff appearance in 2004.

Regardless of when it started, it is a tradition similar to the Florida rats.

Again, at least the rats are plastic and don’t stink.

While fans were ecstatic at seeing the creatures, Nashville’s maintenance and security personnel were less than pleased. 

The smelly fish are generally smuggled under clothing (ugh!), and the staff has been known to look the other way out of loyalty to the team and fans.

During playoffs, local celebrities have been called upon for ceremonial toss.

A loyal fan tried it when the Predators were visiting Pittsburgh during the 2017 Stanley Cup Final and had the cuffs put on him for variations of disorderly conduct.

The charges were later dropped.

Regardless of the non-specificity of its origins, like the Florida rat shower, the Nashville catfish toss is here to stay.

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ON DECK

NASHVILLE PREDATORS @ FLORIDA PANTHERS

  • When: Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise 
  • Streaming ONLY: ESPN+, Hulu
  • Radio: WPOW 96.5 FM-2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • Season Series (Florida Leads 1-0) — At Nashville: Panthers 4, Predators 1 (Jan. 22). At Florida: Thursday.
  • Last Season: Nashville won 2-0
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Florida leads 22-14-6, 3 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Saturday, March 23 at New York Rangers, 8 p.m. (ABC)

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