Sunday

Pat Lafontaine

Outside of Gilbert Perreault, Pat Lafontaine might have been the singularly most exciting skater to ever wear a Buffalo Sabres uniform.

As an 18 year old, the St. Louis, Missouri born Lafontaine took his game north of the border to Perreault's old stomping grounds - the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Lafontaine tore up the league in his only season there, scoring an mind-numbing 104 goals, 130 assists and 234 points in 70 games! Only Mario Lemieux has ever posted better numbers. His spectacular play convinced the New York Islanders to draft him 3rd overall in the 1983 entry draft.

Lafontaine then turned his attention the United States national team and the Olympics in 1984 and then turned professional with the 4 time defending Stanley Cup champion New York Islanders.

Lafontaine was the next generation of Islanders greats. He was the guy expected to take the torch from Mike Bossy and Bryan Trottier and company. He was the top player in the post-championship era on Long Island. He scored 40-plu goals four consecutive years in a row, including a 54 goal season in 1989-90. In total LaFontaine scored 287 goals as an Islander, but none bigger than the 1987 quadruple overtime playoff game against Washington.

But it wasn't until a 1991 trade to Buffalo in exchange for Pierre Turgeon that Lafontaine blossomed into one of the greatest players in the league. Finding a unique chemistry with Alexander Mogilny. Lafontaine erupted with 46 goals and 93 points in just 57 games in 1991-92. In his second season, 1992093, he challenged Mario Lemieux for the NHL scoring title when he tallied 53 goals and 148 points. Mogilny shared the league lead in goal scoring with an amazing 76!

Sabres fans, and hockey fans everywhere, were robbed of one of the most electrifying players in recent memory. First reconstructive knee surgery caused Lafontaine to miss much of the 1993-94 and half of the 1994-95 season. When he did return, he was honored as the Bill Masterton trophy winner for his dedication and perseverance to the game.

Lafontaine gradually found his old form during the 1995-96 season, scoring 40 goals and 91 points. But in 1996-97 tragedy struck again. Pat only played in 13 contests as he was sidelined with post-concussion syndrome. Lafontaine wanted to play despite not having clearance from the Sabres doctors. Lafontaine demanded to be traded to a team who had doctors that would clear him to play. On September 29, 1997 he was traded to the New York Rangers.

Lafontaine made his return, but was always one hit away from having to retire for his own good. After 67 games which saw Lafontaine score 23 goals and 62 points, Lafontaine collided with one of his old teammates, and suffered his 5th serious concussion.

Pat Lafontaine was a 5 time all star who scored 468 goals and 1013 points in 865 games. He was a two-time Olympian and played in three Canada/World Cups.

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