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Pat LaFontaine still helping kids, trying to protect NHL players from concussions

OTTAWA -- Pat LaFontaine, whose career was cut short by multiple concussions, is healthy now. But he can still vividly remember the bad days brought on by his head injuries.

"A bad day is you have no enthusiasm," LaFontaine said today in the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario. "You have a migraine headache. You’re anxious. You don’t want to leave the house. You’re very emotional. You just can’t see the light. There’s no spark. There’s nothing, and you can’t find it. It’s a very confusing place. I wouldn’t be able to sit and have a conversation."

It's those recollections that have the Hockey and Buffalo Sabres Hall of Famer worried about the health of today's NHL players. Head injuries seem as commonplace as breakaways nowadays, and LaFontaine is concerned for players like Sidney Crosby, who has missed most of the past two seasons with concussions.

"I think everybody wants to come to a place where the players are protected, they can play a long career," LaFontaine. "Why should anybody in any great sport have to be concerned about their livelihood when they’re done?

"It’s a serious, almost epidemic these days. It’s not going away. The forces are there. You have to understand what’s giving is the head and the neck, and we need to continue to put in the proper rules, whatever it takes to protect the head and the neck in our game."

LaFontaine is hoping Crosby can return. He also knows the Pittsburgh superstar is in a tough place.

"I’m hopeful, but I also know science," LaFontaine said. "I also know what happens if you get multiple head injuries. When you’re at this point and it’s taken you not much of a hit to put you that far out, it’s very concerning. Very concerning."

LaFontaine is in Canada's capital to help open a playroom for sick kids in the Ottawa hospital, much like the Lion's Dens his Companions in Courage Foundation opened in Roswell Park Cancer Institute and Women's and Children's Hospital of Buffalo.

"At the end of the day, we’re up to almost impacting 45,000 to 50,000 kids a year around North America," LaFontaine said. "It never gets old when you open up a room like this for kids."

To hear the full interview with LaFontaine, click the audio file below. In the picture, LaFontaine (right) is having a video conference with a child in a Buffalo hospital. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (left) and Philadelphia's Sean Couturier (seated) also take part in the talk.

---John Vogl


Pat LaFontaine


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John Vogl

John Vogl

John Vogl has been covering the Sabres since 2002-03, an era that has included playoff runs, last-place finishes and three ownership changes. The award-winning writer is the Buffalo chapter chairman for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

@BuffNewsVogl |

About Sabres Edge

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has been covering the Buffalo Sabres since 2007. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and can vouch that exposed flesh freezes instantly when walking in downtown Winnipeg in January.

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Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

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