A worker picks up toy rats after fans threw them onto the ice during the second period of an NHL hockey game between the New Jersey Devils and the Florida Panthers, March 31, in Sunrise, Fla. The Panthers won 3-2. (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)
© AP: Luis M. Alvarez

Florida Panthers fans, in an effort to maintain the team’s good fortunes throughout the NHL playoffs, brought back an old tradition: throwing rats onto the ice.

In a March 31 game between the Panthers and New Jersey Devils, Panthers fans threw toy rats onto the ice during the second period (the toy rats were distributed to all fans as part of a promotion).

As ESPN reported, in the 1995-96 season, player Scott Mellanby famously dispatched a rat that had the temerity to try to traverse the Panthers locker room before a game. He scored twice that night, and Mellanby’s feat was described by netminder John Vanbiesbrouck as a “rat trick.” By the time the playoffs rolled around, thousands of plastic and rubber rats were finding their way onto the ice in celebration of the upstart franchise. The Panthers advanced to the Stanley Cup finals that spring before being swept by the Colorado Avalanche.

Since that finals appearance the Panthers have struggled with losing seasons and dwindling attendance. This season, however, the Panthers turned things around, capturing the Atlantic Division. When the winning returned, so did the rat-throwing. (Update: The team’s winning ways ended in the playoffs; the Panthers lost to the New York Islanders in six games.)

Throwing objects onto the ice is not a new NHL phenomenon. Fans in Detroit, for example, are known to throw octopi onto the ice at Detroit Red Wings games. According to website http://redwings.nhl.com, the octopus first made its appearance on April 15, 1952, during the Red Wings’ Stanley Cup playoff run. Two Detroit brothers, Pete and Jerry Cusimano — storeowners in Detroit’s Eastern Market — threw the eight-legged cephalopod on the ice at Olympia Stadium. Each tentacle of the octopus was symbolic of a win in the playoffs. Back then, the NHL boasted only six teams, and eight wins (two best-of-seven series) were needed to win the Stanley Cup. The Red Wings swept the series that year, and the octopus has come to be the good luck charm ever since.

The tradition carried over to Joe Louis Arena on opening night in 1979 when several found their way onto the ice. During the 1995 playoffs, Bob Dubisky and Larry Shotwell, co-workers at a meat and seafood retail company near Detroit, tossed a 38-pound octopus onto the ice during the National Anthem prior to Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.

Terminix Survey: Household Pests Scarier Than Zombies

Ninety-three percent of Americans are afraid of pests, with many experiencing nightmares about them, according to a new survey from Terminix. Though dangerous encounters with spiders, cockroaches and mice seem far-fetched, the threat is more real than many think. For example, nearly six in 10 homeowners (59 percent) admit they’re cohabitating with one or more pests right now. Terminix partnered with Kelton Global to survey more than 1,000 homeowners ages 18 and older to expose their biggest fears about pests. The results revealed homeowners are not only terrified of pests, but also are unprepared to deal with them. In fact, 21 percent of millennials say they’ve considered moving just because they spotted a pest.

Other key findings from this survey include:

  • Critter infestations trump common fears: For many, a pest invasion is scarier than public speaking (32 percent), global warming (26 percent) or a celebrity/reality star running for president (25 percent).
  • A single pest can be a relationship deal-breaker: One-quarter of female homeowners said they would stop dating someone whose home had even one cockroach — with three percent reporting they’ve actually called it quits after seeing a critter. To put this in perspective, fewer would consider conflicting political views (17 percent), terrible style (13 percent) or lack of a college degree (7 percent) worthy of a breakup.
  • The worst of the worst: Scorpions are the pests homeowners fear most (65 percent), followed by rats (55 percent), bed bugs (54 percent), bees/wasps (51 percent) and spiders (49 percent).

Despite these fears, the survey shows homeowners aren’t leveraging the most effective methods to eliminate or prevent pest infestations (a PMP). For example, close to a quarter (22 percent) admit their go-to weapon to fight pests is a shoe.