The Sabres weren’t his first team or his last, or even the team he spent the largest portion of his NHL career with, but Pat LaFontaine certainly left a mark on the franchise and made an impact on the ice and off the ice in Buffalo during his time here.
He was captain of the Sabres for several seasons from 1992 until 1997 and even to this day, holds numerous franchise records.
Center, b. 1965
Acquired via trade, 1991
Before joining the Sabres, however, he had a career with the NHL’s New York Islanders, who drafted him third overall in 1983.
LaFontaine played with the Islanders for eight seasons until he was traded to Buffalo on October 25, 1991. The Islanders traded LaFontaine along with Randy Hillier, Randy Wood and a 1992 4th-rounder to the Sabres in exchange for Benoit Hogue, Uwe Krupp, Dave McLlwain and Pierre Turgeon.
His Sabres career would see him play in 268 regular season games, accruing 385 points in that time (158 goals, 227 assists). He’d also notch 27 points in 19 playoff games with Buffalo. Even to this day, he’s considered one of hockey’s best playmakers.
Although he never won a Stanley Cup, he did win the Bill Masterton Trophy in 1995 for perseverance and dedication to hockey after returning from a serious knee injury that kept him out most of the 1993-94 season.
He remained a member of the Sabres organization until September 29, 1997, when the Sabres traded to him to the New York Rangers for a 1998 2nd-round pick that would end up being Andrew Peters, along with future considerations that were never exercised.
LaFontaine played one season with the Rangers, making him just the fifth player in NHL history to skate for all three New York-based clubs. He retired on August 11, 1998.
Even to this day, LaFontaine holds several franchise records for the Sabres, including most points (148) and assists (95) in a season, both set in the 1992-93 year. He’s also got the record for most goals by a center in a season (53) and third-best record for goals in a season (53).
LaFontaine is the last Sabres player to have a six-point game, which happened on February 10, 1993 against Winnipeg. He had six hat tricks in his Sabres career, 66 power-play goals, and also set several playoff records.
LaFontaine holds the record for most goals, points and power-play goals in a single playoff series, all set in 1992 versus Boston. He also holds the record for longest consecutive goal-scoring games in a playoff year (7).
One player – Chris Taylor – wore 16 after LaFontaine’s departure from Buffalo. The Sabres later retired #16 on March 3, 2006, almost nine years after LaFontaine’s final game with the franchise. He was also inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003.