Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Florida Panthers To Honor 1996 Team

     The Florida Panthers will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 1995-96 Eastern Conference championship and Stanley Cup finalist team on March 12 as the club will host the Philadelphia Flyers. A ceremony will be held prior to the start of the game.
     13 Players who were announced to participate includes John Vanbiesbrouck, Brian Skrudland, Scott Mellanby, Gord Murphy, Ed Jovanovski, Bill Lindsay, Tom Fitzgerald, Mike Hough, Jason Woolley, Ray Sheppard, Johan Garpenlov, Radek Dvorak and Terry Carkner. Seven people from hockey operations who will show up are Doug Maclean, Bill Torrey, Bryan Murray, Chuck Fletcher, Duane Sutter, Dave Smith and Scott Tinkler.
    The season that the club was involved in became known as The Year Of The Rat. On opening night against the Calgary Flames at Miami Arena, Mellanby killed a rat that was running around the locker room. He would score two goals in the game and Vanbiesbrouck characterized it as a rat trick when speaking with the press after the game. Fans started to throw rubber rats onto the ice whenever the Panthers scored a goal during the regular season and it accelerated more as the postseason began. Commissioner Gary Bettman eliminated the practice several months later due to the game being delayed and player safety.
     They became the first team in franchise history to appear in the NHL playoffs and it happened in just their third season. They stopped the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal and defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference Semifinal. They upset the Pittsburgh Penguins in a seven-game series during the Eastern Conference Final and were swept in four games for the Stanley Cup by the Colorado Avalanche.   

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