August 11, 1998 -- There was no joy in Sabreville over the news that a Hall of Fame hockey player had announced his retirement on this date.
Pat LaFontaine said his NHL playing days were over, ending a 15-year career that was spectacular. While the news of the retirement of a New York Rangers usually doesn't cause much of a reaction in Buffalo, this one certainly did.
LaFontaine spent his first eight seasons with the New York Islanders, but then was traded to the Buffalo Sabres in the midst of a contract holdout. LaFontaine fit in perfectly, scoring a personal-best 148 points in the 1992-93 season while teaming with linemate Alexander Mogilny. What's more, LaFontaine was quickly adopted by the community, proving himself to be a valuable good-will ambassador for the team.
The two sides should have lived happily ever after, but fate didn't allow it. He suffered a severe concussion early in the 1996-97 season, and missed the rest of the seaosn. An ugly dispute about LaFontaine's health followed in the fall of 1997, and the Sabres opted to trade him to the Rangers.
The center had 62 points in 67 games for the Rangers, but suffered another head injury there and was forced to retire.
--- Budd Bailey