Mellanby Panthers

Scott Mellanby indelibly wrote his name in the Florida Panthers record book 30 years and eight months ago, scoring the first goal in franchise history.

Six nights later, he added to that milestone when he scored the Panthers’ first goal at home.

For the past two-plus weeks at his summer home in Wisconsin, Mellanby watched the Panthers battle the Edmonton Oilers in a bid to win their first Stanley Cup.

Florida made it much more nerve-racking than any Panthers fan wanted, pushed to the seven-game limit to finally get the job done Monday after the Oilers’ remarkable comeback from a 3-0 deficit.

Today, Mellanby is delighted for the organization and a fan base that, together, have enjoyed and endured a wild ride through a three-decade NHL life.

“I think their win is tremendous,” Mellanby said in conversation with “It’s been a long journey. I’m happy that the franchise survived. They went through a lot of tough years to become champions.”

The history of the rat and the Florida Panthers

A senior advisor to St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong since May 2023, Mellanby has connections to the Panthers and the Edmonton Oilers, the opponent that Florida has just swept in the Final.

The 58-year-old Montreal native’s link to the Panthers remains strong more than 30 years after his arrival in South Florida. Beyond two historic goals, Mellanby played a huge early role helping to promote hockey in a market whose ice was usually only viewed in a glass, famously killed the Miami Arena dressing-room rat that spawned a rodent-loving fan subculture and served as the Panthers’ popular captain from 1997-2001.

Mellanby played 552 games for Florida over seven and half seasons, from 1993 into 2001. He was a charter member of the franchise upon selection from the Oilers, for whom he played two seasons, plucked in the NHL’s 1993 expansion draft.

Mellanby’s first reaction to becoming a ground-floor member of the Panthers wasn’t one of overwhelming joy, no matter the remarkable uncharted journey on which he was about to embark.

Mellanby photo

Scott Mellanby with a photo of himself celebrating his goal on Oct. 6, 1993, the first in Florida Panthers history, scored against the Blackhawks at Chicago Stadium.

“Expansion teams to that point had been pretty poor. You’re concerned about trying to stay in the League,” he recalled. “To be honest, I was disappointed to be selected, but it ended up being great for me.

“I wasn’t in Edmonton very long but I loved my two years there. The Panthers are a little more special for me -- scoring the first goal in franchise history, the rat thing, being part of the expansion process and being a captain.”

Mellanby had broken into the NHL with the Philadelphia Flyers at age 19, the team’s second-round pick (No. 27) in the 1984 NHL Draft. He played two games in 1985-86 and 353 more for the Flyers over five-plus seasons through 1991, traded to the Oilers on May 30, 1991, to begin two seasons in Edmonton.

“(Oilers GM) Glen Sather had spoken to me before the expansion draft,” Mellanby said, Edmonton having failed to qualify for the 1993 playoffs. “I was turning 27 and he basically said to me, ‘If we were a good team, I’d keep you. But we’re going the other way and you’re getting a little expensive…’

“I think I was making $300,000 at the time,” he added, laughing. “(Sather) told me I’d be exposed in the draft and said with two teams picking, I was going to be selected.”


Scott Mellanby with the Florida Panthers and with the Edmonton Oilers, from whom he was claimed by Florida in the 1993 NHL Expansion Draft.

Which indeed he was, 30th overall in a draft that moved 51 players to either the Panthers or Mighty Ducks of Anaheim from the NHL’s 24 existing teams.

The veteran forward, who would play 1,431 games over 21 seasons for the Flyers, Oilers, Panthers, Blues and Atlanta Thrashers was named Florida’s second captain on Sept. 11, 1997. He succeeded Brian Skrudland, another charter member of the Panthers who had been drafted 32nd overall from the Calgary Flames and in June 1997 had left as a free agent to sign with the New York Rangers.

Of course, Mellanby was a franchise legend before he ever wore the “C,” having killed a rat with his stick in the Panthers’ Miami Arena dressing room before the team’s 1995-96 home opener. That prompted goalie John Vanbiesbrouck to coin the phrase “rat trick,” which in turn spawned the tradition of fans showering the ice with plastic rats to celebrate a Florida goal.

“If I’d patented the rats, I’d be a billionaire,” Mellanby joked.

It was culture shock, to say the least, when he moved from the hockey hotbeds of Philadelphia and Edmonton to South Florida. He recalls minibus tours in the summer of 1993 with teammates Skrudland, Vanbiesbrouck, Rob Niedermayer and a few others, forums and modest rallies held in Miami and area shopping malls and elsewhere to bang the Panthers drum for fans and the casually curious.

mellanby ad

Scott Mellanby in 1995 action with the Florida Panthers, and an Oct. 22, 1993 advertisement in the Miami Herald, promoting an autograph signing at a shopping mall featuring Mellanby and three teammates.

The Miami Herald of Oct. 22, 1993, advertised an hour-long signing at Pembroke Lakes Mall featuring Mellanby (his name highlighted with “Panthers 1st goal”), Mark Fitzpatrick, Niedermayer and Dave Lowry. Fans would pay $10 for Niedermayer’s autograph, $2 more than for each of his three teammates.

Scoring a team-high 60 points that first season (30 goals, 30 assists), Mellanby vividly recalls GM Bob Clarke addressing a meeting as the Panthers broke training camp.

“Clarkie got up and at the end of his talk, he looked around the room and said, ‘I don’t know what we’re going to be, but we’re not going to be a (expletive) doormat for anybody in this League,’ and then he walked out. The tone was set. We were going to (expletive) compete.”

That they did. The Panthers finished fifth in the Atlantic Division, missing the playoffs by a single point; their 33 victories, also the total of the Mighty Ducks, set the NHL record for most wins by an expansion team, toppled in 2017-18 by the 51 of the Vegas Golden Knights.

Mellanby would score the first goal in Panthers history on Oct. 6, 1993, coming on the power play against the Blackhawks at Chicago Stadium at 12:31 of the first period of Florida’s first game. He has a series of three photos of the goal framed in his basement den.

Mellanby 1st goal

Scott Mellanby, stick raised, celebrates his goal, the first in Florida Panthers history, scored against Chicago Blackhawks goalie Ed Belfour on Oct. 6, 1993.

“I’m on my knees, typical of most of my (364 career) goals. It was from close range,” he said. “I scored as I was about hitting the ice. Blackhawks around me are Eddie Belfour, Chris Chelios and Dirk Graham. There’s myself and Keith Brown, who we’d got from Chicago, is coming into the picture.”

Then, with a laugh: “Brownie was a good player but that he was on the power play tells you how limited we were.”

Mellanby says he still has that milestone puck “probably in a box somewhere. We’ve moved a bunch of times. I don’t showcase my stuff -- I have some pictures and an All-Star Game jersey, not a ton of stuff displayed.”

His next goal for the Panthers came the following night in St. Louis against his current employer. And then, Mellanby scored Florida’s first goal on home ice in a 2-1 Oct. 12 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, a sellout crowd of 14,372 enjoying the action that followed a rollicking 30-minute pregame ceremony featuring dancing skaters, skating dancers, lasers and a live panther.


Scott Mellanby stretches before the Florida Panthers’ Feb. 4, 1995 road game against the Washington Capitals. Behind him is fellow forward Dave Lowry.

Today, Mellanby looks back fondly on his time with the Panthers, having helped to get the 2024 Stanley Cup champions off the ground.

“Florida was probably the most special place for me both professionally and personally,” he said. “I’d just got married the summer I was picked up in the draft. My kids were born in Florida. We had a really great group of people there and I have great memories.”

Mellanby says “my heart and my fandom” are now with the Blues, but he’s clearly delighted for the Panthers and their fans.

“It’s great that they have such a fun team to watch,” he said. “They were in the Final last year, they’ve now won the Stanley Cup, and they’re going to have a good team next year. I think winning the Cup is great for them. It’s a good hockey market.

“I remember riding around in a van with a few other players the first August (1993), going to malls for Q&A sessions, trying to grow the game. Sometimes, we’d speak to seven or eight people. But there are a lot of devoted hockey people down there. The Panthers have a good, solid, knowledgeable fan base that has paid the price to enjoy this success now.”

Top photo: Scott Mellanby turns out from behind the net in game action for the Florida Panthers.

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