Pat LaFontaine deserves to have his number retired by the New York Islanders. LaFontaine played for the New York Islanders from 1983-1991, and during his time with the team, he scored 287 goals, and 279 assists (566 points in 8 seasons with the Islanders). His best season was 1989-90, where he scored 54 goals and 51 assists (105 points). Pat’s most famous goal as an Islander was scoring the game-winning goal in the Easter Epic in 1987, in a game that went four overtimes. He was a four-time all-star and had four straight 40-goal seasons with the Islanders. Also, he ranks 5th among goals for USA born players. Pat LaFontaine was inducted into the NHL Hall of Fame and the USA Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003. Most recently, he was named to the NHL’s best 100 players in its first 100 years of existence.
Compared to the Islanders that have their numbers retired or are in the Islanders Hall of Fame, Pat LaFontaine would be one of the best in this category.
Clark Gillies: 304 goals, 359 assists (663 points in 12 seasons with the Isles)
Bobby Nystrom: 235 goals, 278 assists (513 points in 14 seasons with the Islanders)
Some Islanders in the club’s Hall of Fame:
Bob Bourne: 238 goals, 304 assists (542 points in 12 seasons in orange and blue)
Kenny Jonsson: 51 goals, 175 assists (226 points in 9 seasons with the Islanders)
Pat Flatley: 160 goals, 328 assists (488 points in 13 seasons with the Islanders)
Ken Morrow: 19 goals, 105 assists (124 points in 10 seasons with New York)
Morrow was a defenseman so he does not really count.
Ed Westfall: 105 goals, 181 assists (286 points in 7 seasons)
The most seasons these players spent with the Islanders was Bobby Nystrom with 14. If LaFontaine played 14 seasons in orange and blue he would have 445 goals, and 506 assists (951 points). That number is astounding!
I am not trying to downgrade the effect these players have had on the Islanders. I just want to prove that it is very strange Pat Lafontaine is not recognized for his efforts, especially since former players with worse stats have gained the acknowledgment needed for someone of their skill.
Off the ice, Pat LaFontaine is even more impressive. In 1997, Pat started “Companions in Courage”, a foundation that builds interactive playrooms in hospitals all over North America. So far, they have built 20 playrooms. The playrooms are called “Lion’s Dens”, and they allow for child patients to escape from a hospital atmosphere and play video games, FaceTime their friends, etc. If you would like to donate to this organization, you can visit their website.
LaFontaine is also the Vice President of Hockey Development for the NHL. This past summer, the NHL introduced the “Declaration of Principles.” The plan’s goal is to increase awareness for youth hockey, mainly in the United States. Additionally, a focal point is to increase diversity in hockey. I had the opportunity to work on the floor of the NHL Draft last June, and virtually everyone on the level was an older white male. This must change, and LaFontaine is trying to lead it. The initiative has been applauded by Pope Francis in Vatican City, and players such as Seth Jones and Erik Karlsson. Hopefully, the “Declaration of Principles” is a success.
Why has Pat LaFontaine not had his number retired?
The reason why you do not see a LaFontaine jersey in the rafters was due to his relationship with the former owner, Charles Wang. In 2006, Pat LaFontaine was hired to be a Senior Advisor to Charles Wang. Six weeks later, LaFontaine quit because he did not agree with the decision to fire Neil Smith, who was the head coach at the time. Pat LaFontaine has a much better relationship with the new ownership group of Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky. LaFontaine’s name was even mentioned last year in the Islanders hunt for a new President of Hockey Operations. Personally, I think he would be a great hire. While it would be tough to retire his number with Andrew Ladd currently wearing #16, the decision must be done.
It is crazy that the Islanders management has not retired Pat LaFontaine’s number or had him inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame. As fans, we should rally behind this cause and give LaFontaine the acceptance he highly deserves.
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