Hats, but not rats: NHL commish on what fans can throw on ice

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NEW YORK (AP) Attention, Florida Panthers fans: Throwing those toy rats on the ice during a game means drawing the ire of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.

Days after fans in Philadelphia threw light-up wristbands onto the ice during a Flyers playoff loss, Bettman said the league strongly discourages throwing anything onto the ice except for hats to celebrate a hat trick.

That includes playoff traditions of faux rats in Florida and real octopi in Detroit.

“Putting aside the hat trick, we don’t think it’s a good idea for fans to be throwing things on the ice for a whole host of reasons.” Bettman said Friday at a meeting of the Associated Press Sports Editors. “We don’t think it’s appropriate, other than the case of the hat trick, to throw things on the ice. Not only is it disruptive to the game, it’s potentially dangerous.”

Bettman was at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Monday when fans threw hundreds of wristbands on the ice during the third period of a 6-1 loss to the Washington Capitals. The commissioner called it an unfortunate incident, especially considering the wristbands were part of a pregame tribute to late founder Ed Snider.

When Panthers fans threw rats onto the ice during a March 31 game against the New Jersey Devils, the team was given two minor penalties for delay of game, a rule the NHL put in to cut down on such events. Bettman said he spoke to the team’s executive chairman, Peter Luukko, immediately to express his concern about a tradition that dates to Florida’s Stanley Cup Final run in 1996.

Detroit’s octopus tradition goes back much further, but that doesn’t mean it’s league-approved.

“An occasional octopus, I’m not justifying it, is certainly different than 10,000 rats,” Bettman said. “They do a good job at Joe Louis (Arena) of getting the octopi off the ice as quickly as possible. And they don’t swing it around anymore because you can get octopus goop on the ice or on a player’s jersey.”

That won’t be a problem until at least next spring, as the Red Wings were eliminated Thursday night. The NHL told the Panthers that fans can throw toy rats on the ice only after a game.