MIAMI, April 24 (UPI) -- Plastic rats won't be sold at the Florida Panthers' home ice but fans can bring their own toy rats to toss on the ice only after the final horn, officials said.
An NHL rule, instituted after Panther fans tossed rats onto the ice during the team's the 1996 Stanley Cup run, says the home team can be penalized if fans throw items onto the ice after goals or during play, The Miami Herald reported Tuesday.
Everything was fine until the weekend, when fans once again tossed rats onto the ice during the Panthers' 3-0 win over the New Jersey Devils, forcing souvenir stands at BankAtlantic Center to clear their shelves of toy rats.
Referees did not penalize the Panthers, but NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman called team officials Sunday, asking them to squelch illegal rat-tossing.
The team removed rats from its stores on Monday.
"Hopefully, the rat craze will continue, because it's an opportunity for our fans to show their passion and energy, and the rat has become the rallying cry for our franchise," Panthers President Michael Yormark told the Herald. "I love the rat tradition. It's what makes Florida fans unique. But we have to be proactive and make sure the safety of the players remains our priority. One way to do that is limit the number of rats in the building, and then have our ushers monitor closely and eject anybody found throwing rats during play."