Stanley Cup playoffs: A guide to all 16 teams' quirky traditions

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There are some universal traditions in hockey. Fans throwing hats on the ice when a player scores three goals. Players going unshaven during the postseason. The handshake line that ends every playoff series.

But in the NHL, there are some singular traditions for teams and fans.

Here's a look at the Stanley Cup playoffs field and the traditions that help define these franchises, whether they're decades-old or more recent developments.

Eastern Conference

Boston Bruins: The Fan Banner

One of the best moments before Boston home games? Seeing the giant black-and-gold Bruins logo flag passed along the lower bowl by fans. But a key part of that tradition in the playoffs -- one designed to really fire up the crowd before the game -- is having Boston luminaries show up to wave a smaller fan banner.

Sometimes it's a Bruins legend like Zdeno Chara. Sometimes it's local sports icons like Pedro Martinez or Bill Belichick. Sometimes it's inspirational figures, like survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing. It's a moment that binds everyone together -- players, fans and the community -- before the puck drops.

Florida Panthers: The Plastic Rats

Until last season, the Panthers' only previous trip to the Stanley Cup Final was in 1996. That run for the Cats will forever be remembered ... for the rats.

In Miami Arena on opening night, Panthers forward Scott Mellanby had to kill a rat with his stick prior to puck drop. He then scored two goals in that game. Goalie John Vanbiesbrouck joked after the game that Mellanby's accomplishment constituted a "rat trick," and a tradition was born.

The Year of the Rat: The story behind the Panthers' '96 Stanley Cup run

Former NHL forward Scott Mellanby tells the origin story of the "rat trick" and the Panthers' magical 1996 playoff run.

Fans began bringing toy rats to the game and tossing them on the ice after Panthers goals. On some nights, there seemed to be an equal amount of white ice and black plastic and rubber rats after a Florida player scored. The NHL eventually banned the tossing of rats at games, but Florida fans have kept the tradition alive during the team's competitive seasons.

The Panthers also leaned into the meme, introducing a secondary mascot named "Viktor E. Rat" in 2014.

Read more: Why do Florida Panthers fans throw plastic rats on the ice?

Toronto Maple Leafs: Maple Leaf Square

Maple Leaf Square is located next to Scotiabank Arena, where the Maple Leafs and Raptors play. In 2014, Raptors fans turned the square into the NBA's biggest postseason party, earning the nickname "Jurassic Park."

Leafs fans have also crowded the square for viewing parties during the Stanley Cup playoffs. Reaction shots from Maple Leaf Square -- sometimes the thrill of victory, but far more often the agony of defeat -- have become a part of every Toronto playoff game broadcast. It's a place to be among fellow fans who inherently understand the plight of the Leafs, who haven't won a Stanley Cup since 1967, offering many shoulders to cry on if the drought continues.

This postseason, there will be an interactive "Passion Meter" inside the square, which fans can use to measure their passion levels to win Maple Leafs merch.

Tampa Bay Lightning: The Boat Parade

The Lightning won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2020 and 2021, and each time had a celebration befitting of the city's "Champa Bay" moniker. In 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic that forced the playoffs into two Canada-based "bubbles," the Lightning won the Cup and returned home to celebrate with a boat parade in front of fans, partying with the Cup on boats and Jet Skis. They repeated the feat in 2021, with captain Steven Stamkos wearing a shirt that read "BACK TO BOAT."

The Lightning are in the playoffs again; if they successfully capture another championship, get ready to see another party in the water, with the Stanley Cup passed between boats.

(And just in case those players get a little too much into the partying mood, the Tampa police does have divers ready in case the Cup falls in the bay.)

New York Rangers: The Broadway Hat

Many teams change up their postgame awards handed out to players, either because the coaches and players have changed or because it's time to switch up the karma. But the Rangers have been handing out different incarnations of "The Broadway Hat" for more than a decade.

It started in 2011, when the Rangers opened the season in Europe. One of the players acquired a fashionable fedora, and it became a postgame trinket given to the most valuable player after a victory. Dubbed "The Broadway Hat" because of Madison Square Garden's proximity to the Great White Way, the bestowing of the chapeau is usually captured by team staffers and posted to social media.

Carolina Hurricanes: The Storm Surge

After every home victory, the Hurricanes head to center ice for their "Storm Surge," leading the fans in the "Skol" chant, as seen at Minnesota Vikings games in the NFL. It's a moment that connects the players with their supporters, who have helped make games in Raleigh difficult for visiting teams -- PNC Arena was named the second-hardest place to play in a recent NHLPA poll.

The Storm Surge used to be much more grandiose. Originally suggested by coach Rod Brind'Amour in 2019, the Hurricanes used to have choreographed celebrations -- from games of "Duck, Duck, Goose" to players acting as human bowling pins -- that accompanied the "Skol" chant.

They've significantly toned that down over the years, although the choreography did return this season when the players imitated Evgeny Kuznetsov's "The Bird" goal celebration in his honor.

New York Islanders: The 'Yes!' Chant

Islanders fans end their celebration of goals by thrusting their fingers into the air and chanting, "Yes! Yes! Yes!" It's a chant that originated at their old barn, Nassau Coliseum, and was inspired by WWE wrestler Daniel Bryan, who is now Bryan Danielson in AEW. His jubilant celebration was adopted by fans, who chanted, "Yes! Yes! Yes!" with arms in the air during his matches and basically whenever his name was mentioned in the arena.

It's a perfect chant for the Islanders. Daniel Bryan was also a scrappy, rough around the edges underdog whom many people counted out in his pursuit of a championship. When will the Isles have their WrestleMania 30 moment?

Washington Capitals: Rock the Red

When Capitals fans hear "Rock the Red," their minds drift back to those early days of the Alex Ovechkin era, when the franchise was reenergized by the goal-scoring superstar and his talented supporting cast. The stands in D.C. were filled with fans decked out in red Capitals jerseys and T-shirts, bringing an enthusiasm that carried the team all the way to their 2018 Stanley Cup championship.

The vibe is a bit more muted in the building today, now that Washington isn't the same dominant team that it used to be. Capitals fans still get loud and still "Rock the Red" at games, including screaming the word "red" when it appears in the national anthem. (They also scream, "Oh," which was a tradition started at Baltimore Orioles games.) The team continues to lean into the tradition, too, holding "Rock the Red Carpet" events at the start of the season.

Western Conference

Dallas Stars: The Pantera Goal Song

Some NHL teams play custom-made goal songs after their team scores, rather than just some generic arena rock anthem. But none of them have what the Stars have, which is a fight song written and performed by heavy metal icons Pantera.

The late Vinnie Paul and "Dimebag" Darrell were massive Stars fans, and the brothers hung out with the players. In 1999, Dallas defenseman Craig Ludwig asked whether Pantera could compose a new goal song for the team. It took the band around 90 minutes to cook up "Puck Off (Dallas Stars Fight Song)," a metal jam that features a "Dallas! Stars!" chant. It was prominently played during their 1999 Stanley Cup championship run and continues to be their goal song to this day -- one of the most memorable ones in the NHL.

Colorado Avalanche: 'Flag Was Still There'

The Avalanche have had some traditions come and go. During their 2022 Stanley Cup championship run, for example, fans made singing "All the Small Things" by Blink-182 a standard part of home games.

While that tradition isn't as prevalent in 2024, another singing custom has stuck around for years. During the playing of the national anthem, fans proudly shout along with "and our flag was still there!" It's a tradition that tracks back to the aftermath of 9/11. Some claim it was started by an individual fan singing the line and the rest of the crowd eventually caught on. Whatever the case, it joins several other anthem traditions -- including Dallas fans shouting, "stars" and Vegas fans shouting, "night!"

Winnipeg Jets: The Whiteout

The "Whiteout" at Jets home games, in which fans drape themselves in white shirts and jerseys in a show of unity, originated back in 1987. The first incarnation of the Jets was playing the Calgary Flames in the playoffs. The Flames had the "C of red." The Jets wanted to respond with their own uniform color gimmick. So the Whiteout was born.

Winnipeg leaned hard into the tradition, with custom-made shirts and even a Wang Chung song parody called "Everybody Wear White Tonight." Now, the Winnipeg Whiteout has spread from the arena into the community, where the "WPG Whiteout" is a ticketed street party for 5,000 fans that benefits charity.

Nashville Predators: The Catfish Toss

While Nashville hot chicken has become a ubiquitous part of American cuisine, real Preds fans know that hot catfish can be even tastier. While they're on plenty of menus in the Music City, catfish are also found on the ice at Predators games. The tradition of fish tossing might have started back in 1999, when a fan threw a catfish on the ice during a game against Detroit -- a Nashville-styled response to the Red Wings' octopus-tossing ritual.

Inside look at Predators' fish-throwing tradition

Catfish Jake, who has been arrested for throwing a catfish on the Penguins' home ice before, takes ESPN inside the process of smuggling a fish into the arena and throwing it on the Predators' home ice.

Over the years, the catfish tradition has spread to Predators visiting games. Some fans have wrapped them in rally towels and dressed them up in outfits before tossing them on the ice. It's a uniquely Nashville tradition, as Seattle Kraken supporters -- the fans most would expect to toss a fish -- use plush salmon in their traditions rather than the real thing.

Read more: A catfish tale: From Little's Fish Market to the ice in Nashville

Vancouver Canucks: Towel Power

Rally towels are commonplace fan giveaways during the postseason. But Vancouver has a singular connection with them, dating back to 1982. That's when coach Roger Neilson waved a white towel on the end of a hockey stick in a mock surrender after being upset with the officiating in a conference finals game against the Chicago Blackhawks. The fans supported Neilson by waving their own towels when Vancouver played its next home game. The Canucks rallied in the series to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

Not only do Vancouver fans still mention "Towel Power" in 2024, there's a statue of the late Neilson waving that towel on a stick to remind everyone of its origins.

Edmonton Oilers: The Plumber and the Artist

The Oilers debuted a new player of the game trinket this season. OK, actually two of them: a painter's cap and brush, and a plunger. The painter's cap and brush go to the player who "was an artist on the ice, the best offensive performer for the game." The plunger goes to the player "who did the dirty work, the top defensive player of the game."

This has led to priceless images in which Evan Bouchard looks like he's auditioning for "Emily In Paris" and Adam Henrique looks like the neighbor who heard about your clogged toilet situation and has offered his assistance.

Los Angeles Kings: The Dressing Room Dance Party

Throughout the season, the Kings have celebrated victories by doing an odd little dance in the dressing room, swinging their arms up and down in unison. The team has captured this dance craze in a bunch of videos, and the Kings' social media team has even added rave lighting and a disco ball for effect.

Time to bring that boogie on the ice, boys, and let the fans join the party.

Vegas Golden Knights: The Knight Battle

When they arrived in the NHL in 2017, the Golden Knights rewrote the rules for pregame theatrics. They had showgirls in the aisles during warmups. They had a light-up drum line in the upper deck. And on the ice, they had a knight doing battle for the honor of the team and, at one point, chopping an animated plane in half with his sword when Vegas took on Winnipeg in the playoffs.

Read more: Behind the scenes with Vegas' pregame show

The pregame "Medieval Times, but hockey" act has only gotten more complex over the years. At last glance, the Golden Knight was defending the realm from a giant, fire-breathing animated dragon on the ice this season. Whatever Vegas has cooked up for the playoffs, the fans are going to want to be seated well before the players arrive.