(Born on February 22, 1965) -- It’s fair to say that Pat LaFontaine’s stay in Buffalo was too short, and that it was never boring.
LaFontaine certainly ranks as one of the greatest American-born hockey players in history. He was born in St. Louis but moved to Michigan as a youngster. There he learned the game, and played junior hockey in Quebec. In his last season for Verdun, the center had 234 points in 70 games.
LaFontaine was the first draft choice (third overall) of the Islanders in 1983. He just missed playing on the New York dynasty of the early 1980s. His most famous goal of that time came in 1987, when he scored in a four-overtime contest against the Capitals.
LaFontaine was caught up in a contract dispute in 1991, and that led to a major trade with the Sabres involving Pierre Turgeon. LaFontaine picked up his game here, scoring 148 points in the 1992-93 campaign. He teamed with Alexander Mogilny in a season to remember.
LaFontaine had injury problems after that, and suffered a concussion that cost him most of the 1996-97 season. He and the Sabres disagreed on his condition a year later, and he was traded to the Rangers for a draft choice. Another concussion ended his career in the spring of 1998.
--- Budd Bailey