By Eric Duhatschek (The Athletic)
In the spring of 1996, Joel Quenneville had a front row seat to what was unquestionably the greatest moment in Florida Panthers history. Quenneville was an assistant coach with the Colorado Avalanche, a young powerhouse that had relocated to Denver from Quebec just the previous year and was playing Florida in the Stanley Cup Final.
Florida was, relatively speaking, an expansion newbie.
Long before the Vegas Golden Knights came along, the Panthers were a rare NHL expansion success story, qualifying for the Stanley Cup Final in just their third season. Games in the Miami Arena, the Panthers’ original home, were packed. Plastic rats rained down from the stands whenever they scored a goal, a curious and short-lived phenomenon that began early in the season after goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck noted, in a win over Calgary, that his teammate Scott Mellanby had managed a “rat trick” in the game.