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KNOX, LAFONTAINE'S AGENT CLASH ON ARBITRATION, TRADE ISSUES

The Pat LaFontaine affair refused to end Tuesday, despite the fact the center was traded by the Buffalo Sabres to the New York Rangers more than a week ago.

Sabres chairman of the board Northrup Knox said in a news conference Tuesday afternoon that he was "astounded personally" that LaFontaine decided to resume his career this fall, due to previous medical reports that said the center should not play again. Knox said LaFontaine turned down the chance for medical arbitration and "Pat and his agent requested a trade," echoing a statement at the time of the trade made by team president Larry Quinn.

Don Meehan, LaFontaine's agent, who attended Tuesday's home opener in Marine Midland Arena, strongly disagreed with Knox's statements.

"At no time did we ever request a trade, nor did we ever reject medical arbitration," said Meehan, who characterized comments by Knox and Quinn as "clearly untrue."

Knox also said that "the suggestion in the media that this decision was driven by some budget in which LaFontaine was no longer on the roster is nonsense.

"I have reviewed budgets with Patty in, Patty out, Patty receiving insurance proceeds, and many other variations on his status," he said. "We developed several working budgets."

Knox called the rare news conference to counter what he described as unfair news reports of the team's actions in recent months.

Knox was particularly upset with suggestions that the team has not shown a commitment to winning. He said the team's ownership group has provided $33 million to cover losses accumulated in the past three years, including $9 million in the past year.

"Those facts I submit demonstrate our financial commitment to this franchise, to this area, and to our home city," Knox said. "To suggest that we do not wish to win is an affront to me, my late brother (Seymour Knox III), and our entire management team.

"The right of the press to expose our shortcomings, and the right of the fans to voice their gripes, is fundamental. But owners at least have the corresponding right to expect the media to be thorough, accurate and fair. Recent coverage of the Sabres, I believe, has failed on all these counts."

Knox touched on a variety of other subjects during the half-hour session, including the release of Ted Nolan. He said the decision to replace the Sabres' coach started as a difficult action, but became simple.

"The general manager wouldn't talk to the coach. The coach wouldn't speak to the general manager. The coach did not accept the planning directives developed by the hockey department. Both discussed their problems with the media and not with each other. The circumstances were intolerable and unacceptable, and change was required," he said.

Knox said he is convinced that the team's management has acted correctly in recent months. "Sure, you can quibble here and there about odds and ends," he said. "Hindsight is great, but I prefer to look forward. I think we're going in the right direction."

Both Knox and team president Larry Quinn also denied rumors circulating that the Sabres had troubles in recent weeks making loan payments or payroll.

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