Florida Panthers open investigation into altercation between mascot, Lightning fan
An altercation between a Tampa Bay Lightning fan and Florida Panthers mascot Monday was not staged, and has prompted an investigation by the Panthers, a team spokesperson said.
A video posted on Twitter by a fan inside FLA Live Arena showed a fan in a blue shirt grab Viktor E. Ratt, one of Florida’s two mascots, and pull the anthropomorphic rat’s shirt over its head. Another, tweeted by another fan, showed the mascot holding a Lightning jersey, which the mascot eventually throws into the crowd.
So where was @FLALiveArena security?? Reason number 5 billion why Tampa fans are a circus show pic.twitter.com/1AUbjCzdhp
— pantherman2020 (@pantherman2020) February 7, 2023
Been seeing a video of “Viktor E. Rat” being pushed around by what looks like a Tampa Bay fan.
In this video, it seems as if “Viktor” throws his jersey into the crowd which results in some sort of retaliation from the fan.
I have no idea if this is staged. #ViktorERatGate pic.twitter.com/9ckN0Z7Knf
— David R (@David954FLA) February 7, 2023
Neither stadium security nor local police intervene at any point, prompting natural questions about whether the the incident was staged. The Panthers, however, said it was not.
Neither video shows the start of the altercation, which ended with the Tampa Bay fan holding the mascot by the head and pumping his right fist to boos from the rest of the crowd around him. The fan eventually wound up face to face with the mascot, which then pointed the fan toward the jersey. The fan retrieved it and finally walked away.
A nearby usher or mascot handler did little to quell the altercation as it happened, at least in the videos.
On the ice, Florida (25-22-6) won 7-1 in both teams’ first game since the 2023 NHL All-Star Game. It was the Panthers’ first win against their in-state rival in more than a year and moved Florida within a point of postseason position for the first time in more than two months.
The Panthers’ next game is Thursday at home against the San Jose Sharks. They won’t play the Lightning in South Florida again in the regular season, but do travel to Tampa on Feb. 28.