NHL Database: Pat LaFontaine
NHL Database: Pat LaFontaine.
On my second installment of NHL Database, I have selected to write about Pat LaFontaine. The NHL Database articles will feature my favorite players from the past. I will discuss about their achievements and playing styles. Each one of these great players will have information about their goal scoring styles, playmaking, skating, and other features. Pat LaFontaine brought many fascets to the game, having a big heart was one of them.
Biography: Pat LaFontaine was born on the 22nd of February, 1965, in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. He played in the NHL for 15 years (1983-1998), winning 0 Stanley Cups. Playing for 3 different teams, LaFontaine was elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003. He definitely deserves to be in the NHL Database.
Goal-Scoring: Pat LaFontaine, at one point of his career, was considered a pure goal-scorer. He scored 30 or more goals 9 times, including an incredible 54 goals in the 1989-90 season, playing for the New York Islanders. LaFontaine found the back of the net often enough to enter the Hall of Fame, even though Pat’s teams never won a Stanley Cup. His chronic injuries took their toll and was forced to retire early. If it were not for LaFontaine’s concussions, I think he could have been a scoring champion at least once. His overall game made it possible for opponents to never know if he would pass of shoot.
Passing: Pat LaFontaine was a creative genius with the puck. His passes were unusually refined. He used speed, determination, and laser-sharp passing skills to produce scoring chances. Pat learned how to make great passes over the years, without relinquishing his passion for scoring. In Buffalo, it was because of Pat LaFontaine, Alexander Mogilny once scored 72 goals. Don’t get me wrong, Alexander was a great player. Having LaFontaine completely fool the defensemen and goalie out of position helped Alex to score many tap in goals. I rarely saw a wasted pass done by Pat. He consistently brought his A game and made players better due to that.
Skating: Pat LaFontaine was almost impossible to catch or knock off stride. He geared up in the defensive zone and then exploded. Pat did not tire very much, never floating or coasting around. LaFontaine had great quickness and acceleration. Few players could have made so many dekes into a short stretch at high speed as did Patty. His favorite move was to streak in, move the puck to his backhand, and then stride right with the puck on his forehand. Pat LaFontaine injured his right knee in the 1993-94 season. He sat out the rest of the year, which was very hard for him to do when he loved to play so much. He loved the game with all his heart, and some people think that, that was the main reason why he got so many injuries. The thing is Pat LaFontaine would not have been Pat LaFontaine, if we would not have cared.
Puck-Handling: Pat LaFontaine was a brilliant puck-handler. Keeping the puck always next to himself, Pat seemed to achieve this trait with relative ease. This talent was the reason why he knew how and when to dish the puck. The only way to steal the puck from LaFontaine was to check him aggressively. This kind of action would lead to penalties most of the time. If Pat didn’t get injured the three years that he was, I feel that he would have given Mario Lemiux a good race for the scoring title. LaFontaine played fearlessly, taking the puck into traffic areas, scrapping in the corners, and backing down from no one.
Defense: Pat LaFontaine was good on the faceoffs. Pat had very quick hands, and after winning the draw, he would burst to the opposing center of the net. LaFontaine was one of the best skaters of his time, which made him a great asset in the defensive zone. Maybe, Pat did not have the great defensive talent as a Doug Gilmour, but he had anticipation. Pat LaFontaine might not have been the best defensive player at the time, as you can sometimes tell by his +/- stats, but he was not the worst penalty killer of all time.
Checking: It is amazing that after all the concussions Pat LaFontaine suffered, he was still not scared to check anyone. I remember how in the 1991-92 season, Pat sustained a horrible slash from Jamie Macoun and was hospitalized with a shattered jaw and severed arteries. In 1993-94, he played 16 games, then sat out the rest of the season as doctor’s surgically rebuilt his damaged knee. Two years after that, Pat was sidelined with pain and weakness in the knee. Then, the concussions were what destroyed his playing career. Because the last concussion was life-threatening, Pat LaFontaine had to retire. Amazingly enough, the injuries that cost him so much never ruined his spirit.
Leader: Pat LaFontaine was a leader. He played like one especially in Buffalo Sabres. Pat was a driven man, always giving his everything for the team and the game. Playing with Bryan Trottier, Butch Goring, and John Tonnelli for the New York Islanders helped LaFontaine to learn the intricacies of being a leader. Sadly, injuries and sometimes lack of scoring depth on certain teams left Pat LaFontaine without a cup. Playing for the Islanders, Sabres, and New York Rangers, LaFontaine loved the game, and we all love him for that.
This concludes my NHL Database article about Pat LaFontaine. Check out my article NHL Database: Mark Recchi.