Pat LaFontaine

Pat LaFontaine

Buffalo Sabres Forward

In considering the candidacy of Pat LaFontaine, one must start with his career numbers: totals of 468 goals and 1,013 points (second-best among American born players), .541 goals per game (eighth all-time), two seasons with 50 or more goals and seven of 40 or more and two Olympic appearances. His Buffalo accomplishments are equally impressive: 158 goals in the equivalent of three-plus full seasons, a team-record (for centers) of 53 goals, an overall team record of 148 points in 1992-93 and a Masterton Trophy (for perseverance and dedication) in 1994-95.

Mere statistics, however, only begin to convey LaFontaine’s effect on his team and his community. The stagnant Sabres were reborn with his acquisition in 1991, as his work ethic and vitality sparked both teammates and fans. Pat and linemate Alex Mogilny (with 76 goals) electrified the Aud in 1992-93 as they lit up the scoreboard (and opposing goalies) night after night. Pat always put his team first, and, perhaps unwisely, played through numerous injuries which eventually hastened the end of a brilliant career.

To the extent that community involvement warrants election to the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame, LaFontaine is a hands-down winner. His departure in 1997 saddened not only the fans, but a legion of admirers including the young and infirm who looked to Pat for inspiration and friendship, and never in vain.